i love english language

4.6 – a to z of words in flux



James Milroy argues the point that there was no ‘Golden Age’ of language use, therefore it cannot be in decline as there was never a time where it was being used “perfectly”. He points out that language was only standardised in 1755 and as, during the 19th  and 20th  Century, 40% of brides and bridegrooms couldn’t write their own name, the ‘Golden Age’ must have been between 1944 (when secondary education was made compulsory) and 1965 (complaints regarding the decline in language have been heard) though this seems unlikely. So when it comes to ending sentences with prepositions – e.g. What are you talking about ___i? It is said that the preposition “about” is stranded. – where is this gaolden age? There are numerous examples of respected authors using this feature – e.g. “The waves, and dens of beasts cou’d not receive / the bodies that those souls were frighted from.” by Ben Jonson’s Catiline (1611). Ending a sentence with a preposition was seen by linguists as wrong as it is wrong in Latin grammar which prescriptivists attempted to apply to the English language. We can blame an 18th-century English clergyman named Robert Lowth for this one. He wrote the first grammar book saying a preposition (a positioning word, like at, by, for, into, off, on, out, over, to, under, up, with) shouldn’t go at the end of a sentence because it can’t in Latin – the langugae he saw as the best of languages.




Generalisation has occurred in many words e.g. ‘pants’ ‘place’ specialization has occurred in the case of other words e.g. ‘affection’ to mean emotion, ‘forest’ to mean countryside. Some words have taken completely opposite meanings, possibly because of the changes in our society and the way we live today. For example, at one point the word ‘artificial’ meant ‘full of artistic or technical skill’. Now, however, it means fake/copied/stereotypical. This major change has also occurred with the word ‘nice’ that came from the Latin ‘not to know’ and ignorant. This word’s meaning, too has taken a completely opposite meaning. Finally, the word ‘awful’ used to mean ‘full of awe’ i.e. something wonderful, delightful, amazing now, it means the total opposite. These changes may have occurred because of over use of the words or perhaps misuse or misunderstanding of the words.




This comes from the Latin aggravate meaning ‘to make heavier’, it was originally borrowed into English to mean ‘to make serious’ and now means irritate. Links to Peter Trudgill’s argument that meanings of words changing wouldn’t make English any harder to speak. Peter Trudgill argues that it wouldn’t be easier to speak English if it didn’t change – language change is a good thing that is occurring all the time. The notion  that all words should go back to their original ‘correct’ meaning, is ridiculous, their correct meaning being what the first ever meaning of the word was, in most cases people do not know what the first ‘correct’ meaning of any word was.




Harlow argues that English is a language that can fulfil a wide range of functions since we have many words to meet the needs of technological and scientific advances.  This can be because many new discoveries are made in either America or Britain – both English speaking nations. For example the acronym “AIDS” stands for “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome” and this word is used by many  other languages to describe the disease since they do not have a word for it.




This contracted form was once used by both the upper and middle classes in English society, but is now only used by the lower classes. Jenny Cheshire cites the industrial revolution as playing a part in the emergence of a new middle class who were insecure of their social position and therefore looked to grammars for guidance in their linguistic behaviour. This heightened awareness of social status contributed to the idea of ‘politeness’ and that the ‘correct’ form of grammar was a mark of politeness and high status. She states that the concept of spoken Standard English is problematic, but also that the grammatical structure of spoken English is not well understood. Cheshire observes the fact that our conventional descriptions of ‘standard English’ actually fit written English much better than they fit speech we produce, particularly because the situations we mostly speak in are informal ones.




Ain’t used for negative present tense forms of be and have with all subjects. It overtly symbolises some of the important values of the vernacular culture, belonging and fitting in. Jenny Cheshire found that while it is an indicator of vernacular loyalty for girls, it doesn’t for boys. Girls who strongly adhere to the vernacular culture use it more than girls who are less adhering. Jenny Cheshire found that linguistic variables often fulfil different social and semantic functions for the speakers who use them. She notes that some features are markers of loyalty to the vernacular culture for adolescent boys but not for girls and vice versa, and that female speakers use non-standard speech forms less frequently than male speakers do.




This was coined in the mid nineties to describe a drink that had recently become popular – a mixture of alcohol and fruit flavourings akin to a wine cooler. The new invention needed a new name, so the neologism ‘alcopop’ sprang into existence to describe it, as in the model described in the theory of lexical gaps. ‘Alcopop’ is a blend of the words ‘alcohol’ and ‘pop’ (meaning fizzy drinks in this instance).  The word has fallen out of use with young people after suffering some negative press with regards to underage drinking. It is more commonly associated with cider swigging yobs who terrorise pensioners and vomit on park benches than with the young, hip crowd it was designed for. It’s not quite pejoration, but alcopop’s connotations have gone downhill somewhat. ‘Alcopop’ has remained in use because no other words have been invented to replace it. Although the people who drink alcopops tend to be fairly young, it is adults who use the word ‘alcopop’ the most – the consumers tend to refer to the drink by preferred brand (WKD and Smirnoff Ice being the most popular). This is not yet eponymous as people do not refer to all alcopops as WKDs, but it is a method of avoiding sounding geriatric by saying ‘alcopops’.




In 1960, the spelling “all right” was required in textbooks. Changes have slowly been accepted over last 30 years as words have lexically compounded. “Alright” had been used in some cases before standard language accepted them. This is also the case with “all ready” or “already”. Because of notions of the “Queen’s language”, “the language of a great empire” and “a world language”, in the19th century, there was an additional powerful ideological influence on English language, and so a movement to establish and legitimise Standard English. So constructions such as “I saw” are deemed acceptable and “I seen” unacceptable. This shows successful standardisation in society and James Milroy describes this as “a high degree of uniformity of structure.” ‘Optional’ variation is suppressed and idealisations of standard languages are created. Competing ideologies occur due to vernacular maintenance opposing standard language speech.


At all         


This used to be an emphatic intensifier, for example used in the phrase ‘would you like anything whatsoever?’ However it is now losing its emphasis and going through the process of attrition, as it is now just used as an extended question marker which is often used when you are for example being served in restaurants or cafes to be polite. What was once a means, in Guy Deutscher’s theory, for making language more expressive, has now becoming a hollow phrase with almost no meaning. Language naturally moves this way, with words and phrase slowly being “bleached” of their meaning or impact, so we, as language users, have to be constantly be coming up with new and better ways of being expressive: making our meaning strong and effective.




The long ‘a’ vowel- [a:] is used in the speech of Southern regions of England. It is a feature of RP, the Standard English, which, although not as popular as it once was, still encourages prejudice. Hearing someone speak with the long ‘a’ vowel in words like ‘grass’, ‘task’ and ‘past’ often makes people think that they are better educated than say a Northerner who would use the short vowel [a] in such words, when in fact the true case could be the exact opposite; it is simply that we have grown up to think of this as the superior form of speech. Dennis R. Preston looked at studies which asked people from different regions of the U.S. to rate the degree of ‘correctness’ of English spoken in the fifty states from 1- ‘worst English’ to 10- ‘best English’. In a study asking 150 Michigan respondents, the lowest ratings were given to the South and NYC. Michiganders also gave their own state a ranking in the ‘8’ range showing that they have ”linguistic security”, Also, when asked to label where they thought various dialect areas were, two of the three most drawn areas were the South and NYC. The South was also drawn most by people from South Carolina, NYC, Oregon and many more as well. The studies found, interestingly, that when answered by Southerners themselves (in Alabama), that they again list NYC as one of the ‘worst-speaking’ areas and, in contrast to the Michigan respondents, don’t rank their own area in the South as one of the best, instead giving it a middle-rank of 5. This shows they suffer from “linguistic insecurity”. In another study asking for rankings of ‘pleasantness’ of dialect rather than ‘correctness’, the Southerners conversely gave themselves the highest ranking and then ranked Northern areas like Michigan very low on ‘pleasantness’. The two things that the Michigan and Alabama respondents do agree on is that NYC is at the bottom of the scale for both ‘correctness’ and ‘pleasantness’.




Babe was used to refer to a very young child/infant and become a shortening of baby. However this is very rarely used to describe a young child or infant anymore and has undergone a narrowing and babe is now used either as a term of endearment or to describe an attractive female and has gone from having neutral connotations to positive ones. This could be a social change again because it is a slang word again however it is not a recent slang word and has been used for a number of decades now. This could have been started by men’s attitude to women at a time when women had lower status and weren’t seen as equals but more as wives and sex objects and therefore men referred to them as ‘babes’ because this meant an attractive female. However over the years it has broadened to become a general term of endearment as well to refer to both men and women. This may have come about also through the more equal status of men and women in recent years.


back of         


This is an example of what some people would call an invasion of Americanisms, where a phrase or word in the English Language is frequently replaced by the American form of the meaning. Here the preposition “behind” is being replaced with “back of” which is an American term. However, prepositions originate ultimately from normal nouns and verbs like “back” or “go”, and this shows that language is referring back to what makes the most sense in terms of the simplest language. Guy Deutscher would refer to this process as the “Creation through Destruction” cycle, where existing words are constantly recycled, given fresh new meanings and then other words take their place.




Original meaning of something without covering or clothing – semantic change: new meaning of lots of/many e.g. “bare people here today” or “bare traffic”. An example of amelioration: meaning of the word has grown more positive, as opposed to being “bare” meaning it is coverless and naked, it has been semantically altered to mean lots of/many things, possibly an example of semantic reversal as it has almost become the opposite of its original meaning




John H. Esling argues that our accents can change and “we all leave parts of the speaking style of our early years behind, while we adopt new patterns more suited to our later years.” Dr Clive Upton’s work (he is a lecturer in English Language at the University of Leeds) supports what Esling says. His work shows that people speak different accents to their parents, change accents in their lifetimes, and speak differently for different audiences. One good example of somebody who changes their accent depending on who they are speaking to is Tony Blair – using the glottal stop in bottle instead of the “t” sound. Another example is of Edwina Currie (former MP in 1983) who changed her scouse accent so that she was more accepted socially. John H. Esling argues that our accents can change particularly as we grow older. How much they change depends usually on how much we choose to alter them and on social circumstance.




This is an example that supports Professor David Abercrombie’s “strands” of accent theory, that what one must distinguish is the “short consonant and vowel sounds which alternate in rapid succession”. It is the change in vowel pronunciation of the word “bacon” by Jamaicans as opposed to the Received Pronunciation of “bacon” which is distinctive. In the Jamaican accent, the word “Bacon” sounds more like the common pronunciation of “Beer Can”. The use of this pronunciation by Jamaicans distinguishes them from other people and so supports John H. Esling’s statement that “Accent defines and communicates who we are.” For example, if we were to hear somebody use this pronunciation on the radio, we would assume they were Jamaican.


bew (bell)         


The ‘l’ in words like “bell” becomes a vowel sound (“bew”) – The spread from South-Eastern regions around London, i.e. from Essex and cockney-speaking areas, to other regions in the UK of this example of l-vocalization shows how a working-class dialect can spread into other communities of a different traditional dialect and perhaps a different class. It could be that TV programmes like Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses have popularized such dialect so that it becomes overt prestige to use it because you are fitting in with what is fashionable.  What is interesting is that people who in previous generations would have spoken Received Pronunciation or perhaps near-RP (standard British English) have instead opted for this more “regional sounding” accent.  This Estuary English isn’t radical because of its spread; it’s radical because of the type of people who speak it:  middle-class young people, celebrities, and white collar professionals. This signifies a case of covert prestige where the “inferior” dialect has been adopted by more people including the dominant class who would have originally spoken in RP. This is a subconscious change.




The original denotation of this word is a female dog. However throughout history the denotation has been broadened. The word “Bitch” has now become a derogatory way of speaking of a woman. This word was first taken on by men to refer to a strong or assertive woman who might make a man feel threatened in the early 1980’s perhaps due to the feminist movement. It then progressed further to be used by women themselves to refer to another woman as an insult. However today, like the word “nigger”, “bitch” is used by women as a sign of endearment or joke. But if a man called a woman a “bitch” due to the negative and derogative connotations it still has it would be taken as an insult. Whilst there are few words that can be used to refer to men in a derogative manner like “bitch” there are many more for women for example “slag” and “tart”. This shows that language reflects society’s views for example in the past men were believed to have greater status than women and these words reflect this view. However the use of “bitch” and “slag” still today show that whilst we have undergone demographic change in society, language is slow to catch on and today women still remain unequal in language.




In 1735, a British traveller in Georgia, Francis Moore described that America had taken the adjective of nautical and perhaps Dutch origin: bluff”, meaning ‘broad, flat and steep’, to use as a noun for a sort of river bank. This river bank hardly existed in England which is the reason why England originally had no name for it. This is an example of the vocabulary of American English expanding to meet the needs of today, where new words are needed to describe new things. This beneficial change is contradicting the statement that American English had a negative effect on the English language. John Algeo argues that ‘a language or anything else that does not change is dead’ – reinforcing that diversity in languages is necessary for the language to extend to new uses and new speakers, and to retain its popularity.




Originally meant plank. It is now used for things like ‘board of governors’ or ‘chairman of the board’ meaning a group of people with important or official roles.  It not as dead as the other metaphors as it’s still used in this sense today e.g. diving board.  As both meaning of the word are still used, it shows that a semantic shift from a literal meaning to metaphorical meaning does not cause confusion, as some would argue about most instances of language change. Guy Deutscher argues that “The mind cannot just manufacture words for abstract concepts out of thin air- all it can do is adapt what is already available.” – hence adapting the ingredients it already has – using existing words in a metaphorical sense, which can exist alongside the literal meaning, or, as in some cases, be wholly superseded by it, as with “barmy”, which originally meant full of barm, barm being froth or yeast. This would have created quite a strong image of somebody being seriously mentally ill but this impact has been lost due to how frequently it has been used. Also today many people use ‘mental’ to describe slightly bizarre events and so the word’s original meaning of being to do with the brain is likely to be less frequently used. This metaphor expresses an abstract concept regarding sanity or now just vaguely odd events, without using medical language and so can be used often by many.




This word used to mean something or someone was a coward, or cowardice. Over time, the word “brave” has practically turned completely opposite in meaning, and has semantically changed to mean the complete opposite. Again, this word has undergone amelioration which means that the word has semantically changed and has ‘improved’ in meaning, because it has changed to mean something much better that it once referred to. This will have happened due to the population gradually using the word more and more often, and people picking up the new meaning, and so now the meaning has completely changed.




In Estuary speech particularly London suburbs like Hackney, the ‘th’ sound often becomes a ‘v’ (or even an ‘f’ sound in words like ‘think’). Dennis Preston looked at how people buy into the idea that some different regional dialects are more correct than others. He investigated how people stereotype others because of how they speak and how everyone judges different dialects according to what is considered ‘standard’ so that they believe that some regional varieties are superior. The ‘standard’ variety of speech is imposed by the higher-status group in society on others and becomes a status symbol, so that where the regional variations differ a lot from the ‘standard’, the people who speak it are considered inferior. He says that ‘a primary linguistic myth, one nearly universally attached to minorities, rural people and the less well educated, extends in the United States’ (where his study was conducted) ‘even to well-educated speakers of some regional varieties. That myth, of course is that some varieties of a language are not as good as others.’


bu-ah (butter)         


This pronunciation, which is typical of the Cockney and Estuary English dialects was traditionally associated with the lower classes and there is now a growing tendency all over Britain to make the glottal stop rather than the ‘t’ sound within words like butter. This signifies a case of covert prestige where the “inferior” dialect has been adopted by more people including the dominant class who would have originally spoken in RP. This could also reflect an instance of what Jean Aitchison mockingly referred to as ‘Damp Spoon’ i.e. it could support the prescriptivist view that language is deteriorating due to our laziness in pronunciation. However it in fact takes more muscular tension to omit the /t/ than to say it so the idea that it is down to laziness does not fit. It also contradicts the idea that this change has spread like an infectious disease because covert prestige means that people change the way they speak because they want to fit in. As Jean Aitcheson says- ‘The disease metaphor falls down. People pick up changes because they want to. They want to fit in with certain social groups.’




The general meaning of this word is ‘a cylindrical container used for holding or carrying liquids or solids e.g. paint.’ It used to be just an object but more recently as women are more openly provocative; it is a rude term and is used negatively to relate to a woman who has a lot of sexual relations with many men e.g. “she sleeps around, she’s got a bucket”.  The semantics of the conversion are similar as the opening is wide but the context is completely different.




This has come from the verb ‘to buzz’, originally connotating with the sound of a bee or wasp. Now this is used widely by youths to describe a feeling of excitement or enjoyment. It can also be used in a way or eagerness for something stating, “I am buzzing for it”. People may associate this word as lower class and the people that use it may be considered uneducated in some parts of the country. The new meaning spread fairly quickly, but not so much with the older generation. They may often use the original meaning of the word still, confusing some younger generations. This highlights how the youth of today enjoy creating new words and keeping on trend with their vocabularies. There aren’t any similar words really, and it is more likely for youths to semantically change adjectives, unlike in this case, a verb.




Originally a verb meaning to pitch a tent on a campsite, it underwent conversion to become an adjective, which then underwent pejoration and later amelioration. In 1909, it meant ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical and effeminate behaviour, but by the mid 1970s, it had become more negative, meaning banality, artifice and mediocrity. However, these days, it is often used as an endearing term to describe a feminine man, whether homosexual or not. This amelioration would appear to have shifted along with attitudes towards homosexuality, due to its link to gay men. In the 1970s, attitudes were very negative, and so words associated with gay men would’ve undergone pejoration, due to this connection. These days, society is much more accepting and liberal, explain why camp has undergone amelioration, as we feel it is now acceptable to address homosexual men in a way that is not degrading. Other words once used by homophobes to negatively describe a gay man or woman have also undergone amelioration in recent years, such as queer and fag. The terms are now being used by the gay community itself as positive or neutral descriptives of each other. By embracing a word that was used to attack or degrade, the gay community has demagnetized the strength of the word, ameliorating it and making it a common everyday term. This lessens the effect of the word when used against them.




This is an example of broadening. This word is used so often today that the true meaning is less significant. It loses the force of its original meaning and therefore loses its power. The same happens with intensifiers such as ‘super-’ and ‘extra-’ which are placed in front of adjectives to give them more impact. This is an example of the semantic change in order to make utterances sound more intense, however after a while they lose their emphasis as they are overused in a non literal sense.  This is also seen with words such as ‘disaster’ – This is due to a wish to enhance expressiveness and give extra emphasis. Although many prescriptivists believe that language was once perfect and is now beginning to decay, it is in fact not a new thing. It is shown in the French language where new intensifiers were created to mean ‘no’ with more intensity. Guy Deutscher’s theory suggests that semantics of words change because people want to make utterances more intense to add emphasis to words which originally had little. According to Deutscher the English Language is getting better as opposed to worse in this instance. Expressiveness is one of the key drivers of change according to Deutscher: in the constant drive to improve the effectiveness of our expressions people use metaphorical constructions for great impact, which explains the movement of a word such as “brilliant” from meaning brightly shining, to being just one of a raft of words meaning very good that we have today, all because of an effort by one person initially to come up with a more effective word for very good in the past and opting for an original metaphor.




When “chav” earned its place in the online dictionary, it had already become more of a phenomenon than a word. It originated in southern England (possibly in Chatham, Kent, depending on which sources you believe) to characterise people, who, according to the dictionary, are of low social status, tend to dress in sportswear and behave loutishly. However, as use of the word spread following Bailey’s wave model, chav became less of an insult and became more of a label some young people were proud of as it took on associations with fashion and music. According to “new words of the decade” it can never be used in a serious context without making you look like a snob. The word “chav” not only illustrated how language can be used as a way of distinguishing class and in a derogative manner like “bitch”. But also how a word such as “chav” can go from having negative connotations and associations to become something in which people aspire to be like or to be classed as.


Chill pill         


Favoured by teenagers (mainly in US dramas when talking to their ridiculously young-looking parents), the term made its way into the OED Online in 2007. Unfortunately it did so a few years after it stopped being acceptable to say it in public. Said in the context of “take a chill pill”, it is ostensibly used to encourage someone to calm down, but invariably has the opposite effect. The term “chill pill” is a marking of the rise of youth speak in which the youth of today seem to have adapted their own language other examples include “safe”, “sick” etc. However the lack of usage of this today despite its entry in the Oxford Dictionary highlights how like fashion language goes through trends. This is particularly the case in “teenage” language in which words and phrases such as “chill pill” become quickly dropped and replaced in language when they become overused or too many people catch on to the saying.




This dynamic verb has been blended by Lewis Carroll using the already existing words “chuckle” and “snort”. This is an example of language developing from within.  This supports Jean Aitchison’s view and contradicts the “crumbling castle” belief that the English language is decaying because this is an example of development since Carroll gave us a new word to describe something. Ray Harlow explains that a way in which the vocabulary and structures of a language can develop is through developing “from within”. Harlow defines this as a language “using its own existing resources”.




The use of the non-standard come, as in “I come down here yesterday”, appears to depend on the gender of the speaker who is using it. It functions as a marker of vernacular culture for adolescents girls, but for the boys, it is used 100% of the time in their speech, no matter how much they adhere to the vernacular culture, and so is an invariant feature of their speech. However, both come and ain’t appear to act as markers as vernacular culture for the girls. Both features were used less by the girls who were classed as ‘good’ and for the girls who were deemed to have a similar vernacular identity to that of the boys, they were used almost 90% of the time.


come down here yesterday         


The use of present tense conjugation with time phrase rather than past tense e.g. ‘I come down here yesterday’ instead of ‘I came down here yesterday’. However you could not say ‘I come down here’ without a time phrase unless in context as there is no differentiation between the past and present tense so it would be ambiguous – ‘behaviour is influenced by our social background’ – shows that Jenny Cheshire believes that linguists should take into consideration people’s background, education, social status, wealth etc when making theories about language and variation. The national curriculum for English in England has highlighted that we know very little about spoken English and its differences to standard written English. It is mainly the grammatical structure of spoken English that is misunderstood. Jenny Cheshire explains that some of the theories used to describe spoken English may be biased because they are made by linguists who are exposed to lots of written English – therefore their speech will be influenced by written English more so than people who are not exposed to as much literature.




A recent British innovation in pronunciation is ‘conTROVersy’ where the stress is on the antepenult vowel, unlike American’s who pronounce it ‘CONtroversy’. This is because this British antepenult accent is unknown in America. That said, people in Britain thought at first that this pronunciation originated from the Americans due to the assumption that anything new is American, highlighting the dislike Britain’s have for the influence Americans have had on their language perhaps. This examples therefore shows that ‘both American and British have changed and go on changing today’ as John Algeo states.




The word cool used to mean something that was of a low temperature and was later used to describe something that is fun and exciting or interesting. Again, usually used within the younger generation, associated with “safe” “sick” and “razz” it is used between youngsters to describe something they really like. Before the word cool there was nothing to describe something that was interesting and keeping up with the increasing use of slang words such as safe and sick etc. Used between teenagers, the words main denotation has completely changed over time.




Standard speech pronunciation includes all the syllables of the word “because”. The word is shortened in non-standard to ‘cos’ removing the prefix ‘be’ this is used more by men than women. It is also used more by the lower classes as it is more efficient and also is seen to have more connotations as being ‘hard’ and ‘masculine’. Peter Trudgill  found that working class men report more non standard speech in their talking, non-standard speech is seen to have masculine, ‘hard’ connotations as do other aspects of the working class culture. Many men would prefer to be seen in this way. It is prestigious in its own way as it carries its own desirable masculine attributes.


Courting and Fit         


“Courting” is not regularly used today as a part of our English language and instead it is more likely somebody would say they “fancy” someone or “like” someone. If you were to hear somebody use such a word today you would be slightly bemused as it is an old fashioned archaic word that has lost its need in English language over time. Both words show lexical change and there has been a shift in people’s preference to the word they would rather use. New words come about by word of mouth and they spread, supporting the Bailey wave model. Through such a language spread we learn new words and then prefer the words we learn. Differently, “fit” has crept into our English language and is used to describe a good looking, sexy person. No longer does “fit” just apply to somebody’s health but it also means how somebody looks.




Originally meant a break in an object, but now it has undergone broadening and is a slang word for the class A drug cocaine. Slang is an ever-changing set of colloquial words that is used to reinforce one’s social status, and so the broadening of crack was very sudden as it would’ve spread very quickly, especially through the teenage population, who are the most concerned about social status and belonging to some kind of group. The same may also be said for ecstasy; it used to mean an intense, euphoric experience rarely used in a scientific context due to its being a concept that is extremely hard to define. However, although it was previously used as an abstract noun to describe a state induced by drugs, it underwent conversion in the late 1980s to become the concrete noun that we know today.




The word ‘curb’ was originally used to describe a piece of metal attached to a horses bridal and placed in the horse mouth to help to control its movement. However, now, this meaning has been almost completely replaced with its metaphorical meaning of controlling something, usually intangible, abstract concepts rather than a tangible horse. eg in ‘Curb your Enthusiasm’.  This is a dead metaphor, as the original meaning is almost completely lost and demonstrates the fact that, adapting the use of words through metaphors is useful in expressing difficult concepts, such as “controlling” and abstract concepts such as “enthusiasm”. Dead metaphors lose their original meaning and are used more in an abstract sense, as there are often few alternatives – Guy Deutscher argues that language needs dead metaphors to keep pace with itself.


different to          


in the sentences: “Martha’s two children are completely different to each other.” & “Martha’s two children are completely different from each other.” – Rather than “different to” the form “different from” should be used in this sentence according to the grammar of Standard English. However, there are arguments to support and oppose this rule. According to one writer, the reason for preferring “different from” is that “different to” is illogical, as nobody would say “similar from”. But others say that since “different to” falls into a set of words with comparative meanings such as similar, equal, superior, which require “to” there is reason to support this form. Lesley Milroy’s point is that where there is no reason for one form or the other, the Standard English form is no more than a convention – there can be no argument for many of the conventions of SE.




‘Nae’ ‘Dinnae’ ‘Cannae’ ‘I dinnae ken’- Standard Scottish English Vs Scots. Major regions in Scotland (e.g. Aberdeen, Ayrshire, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Inverness) have their own distinct accents and dialect words. In Edinburgh people are known for being of the upper classes and so have a dialect reflective of Standard Scottish English. However many Scottish people speak in what is called Scots and will tend to say “nae” for “not.” So, instead of the word “cannot,” the Scots would say “cannae.” Similarly, “do not” becomes “dinnae’. By the upper classes such as those more affluent and living in Edinburgh, saying ‘nae’ and speaking in Scots is viewed as inferior as it diverges from the standard English which is the overt prestige form and so, supposedly, indicates status. Such pronunciation is commonly heard in places like Glasgow, large and generally working class. This means that ‘nae’ and other lexis of the Scots dialect lead to people being wrongly perceived as working class, uneducated and in some cases as violent, like a drunken Scotsman.




Initially meant “remove cover from” It was still used in the 17th century in this physical sense. ‘If the house be discovered by tempest, the tenant must in convenient time repaire it.’ This is another dead metaphor as few people use it to describe the action of removing a cover from something. The move away from its original, literal meaning has meant that there is an alternative to the word “find” which has a slightly different meaning as ”find” is used less frequently with abstract concepts compared to “discover”, again making the language better at expressing many different concepts. Guy Deutscher, as a “radical prescriptivist” argues that through such a process our language is getting better, we are getting better at expressing ourselves: expressiveness is a key driver for language change.




Meaning ‘unbiased’ or ‘not involved’. Disinterested has undergone perjoration as many assume that it means ‘uninterested’. People didn’t realise what it actually meant and so it was assumed that it meant the opposite of ‘interested’, forgetting about the word ‘uninterested.’ This could course problems of confusion – which can also be caused by the semantic shift of fashionable words, like ‘sick’ and ‘safe’. Their meanings have changed and so it could be unclear as to which meaning is being referred to. However semantic shift is a part of language change, which means that it is difficult to stop new words taking root.




..pronounced ‘disturb’d’- This used to be said ‘disturbed’, with the ‘e’ pronounced like the’ e’ in ‘bread’ but the speaker tends to run out of steam by the end of a word, and believes that the listener generally knows what word they are saying, therefore ends of words are easy to lose because they are simply left off at the end, whilst the word being said is usually still clear to the listener. This is another clear case of economy driving language change for Guy Deutscher – a radical prescriptivist in that he does think language can change for the worse or the better – in his case for the better, as opposed to a conservative or traditional prescriptivist such as Lynn Truss who considers most change as a change for the worse.




The works of Cheshire in 1978 and Aitchison in 1981 suggest that the non-standard auxiliary do is undergoing a linguistic change away from an earlier dialect form and instead is moving more towards the standard English form. Of all the features examined, only the non-standard auxiliary do was used more often by the girls examined than the boys, however, this feature is undergoing linguistic change. All the other features are used less often by the girls, possibly because the girls who were observed did not form such structured peer groups as the boys, and so their vernacular culture was not as clearly defined.


don’t know nothing          


Use of double negatives is to cancel each other out in Standard English, this rule being recorded by Robert Lowth in 1762, yet many languages use this to emphasise the negativity of the statement. Yet in 1591 Shakespeare used a double negative to emphasise negativity – “I never was nor never will be” Shakespeare, Richard III – which suggests that language may be improving, going against the ‘Crumbling Castle’view. James Milroy argues that “the complaints about declining standards of speaking are not normally about the child’s ability to speak English but about the variety of English that he or she speaks.” So when children use double negatives they are seen as using the wrong vatiry of Englsih – i.e. Standard English – as opposed to being in any other sense “wrong”.




The word for car, duljawinda literally means ‘ground-runner’. This is a logical compounding of two existing words to create a new word to fit the needs of the speaker. This is done frequently in German which is never called a primitive form of language.  For example the word for pollution in German is “umweltverschmutzung” which compounds the words “world” (umwelt) and “dirtiness” (verschmuzung) to create a logical new word to suit the needs of the speakers of the language. The myth that “Aborigines speak a primitive language” links in with the belief that some people hold, that some languages aren’t as good as others. Nicholas Evans argues that the Aboriginal languages have adapted to their needs and adapt to any other external changes, such as technological developments, just as effectively as any other language.




‘Don’t know’ became ‘dunno’- Guy Deutscher states that ‘if one is to believe the authorities, (language) always changes for the worst.’ However this is only quoting the writer of the ‘Dictionary of the English Language’- Samuel Johnson – who wrote the first Englsih dictionary in 1755. The author uses examples throughout the article to demonstrate how language has adapted to become more efficient. Deutscher shows how the beginning of word is easy to lose because people want to save time when they are speaking, and this is done through the dropping of letters or syllables, especially from the start of words because they are of course come to first by the speaker, so are dropped to make a word shorter and allow the speaker to make their point more quickly.




Used to mean ‘an abrupt, exclamatory utterance’ but in modern days it has sexual meaning of ‘the act or process of ejaculating, especially the discharge of the male reproductive organs’. The old meaning is rarely used now as newer meaning has overtaken it. Peter Trudgill’s argument language change Is a good thing to fit needs of current times is put into question here; we seem to have come across an instance where our language is being robbed of meanings, such that as soon as a word acquires a sexual connotation it is effectively “stolen” and it is lost for ever. To some extent we are all prescriptivists.




John H. Esling says that although pronunciation varies between regions to give us the regional accents, we must also realise that we have individual accents. If we did not, we would not be able “to pick a friend’s voice out of the crowd.” Esling states that accent is not only relative to experience “but also to the number of speech features we wish to distinguish at one time.” One’s own accent will differ from their peers or colleagues but also from their own family. For example, Princess Anne was called “Enn” by her mother but she still pronounced her name as “Ann.” John H. Esling argues that most of us believe that the way we speak is the norm and that may be why we fail to recognise our own accent. We are aware of other accents when we meet people who do not speak in the same way as ourselves and by hearing different accents in the media. We may create a stereotype for a person with a particular accent – we listen and categorise according to what we have heard before.




An example of semantic change, faggot used to mean “a tied bundle of sticks or twigs” although this meaning is little known in this society due to the more often associated derogatory term for a homosexual. Because of this new found meaning, this term is now primarily associated with homosexuals. This is usual in that when words become associated to sexual activity, the sharp narrowing means this new sexual connotation rises above all others. This could be a repercussion of a sex-obsessed society in that more and more words are required since we talk about sex even more.




Rhoticity and post-vocalic ‘r- pronouncing the ‘r’ in words after a vowel. In England this pronunciation is increasingly restricted to the West Country and the far South West and a small area of Lancashire to the north of Manchester, but it remains a feature of most Scottish and Irish accents. In England, this is a particular example of a dialect feature leading to stereotypes and prejudice and if you pronounce this ‘r’, being most likely from the West Country, people automatically assume you must live on a farm and are fairly uneducated. On a positive note, like how the NYC dialect was found to be the most unpleasant and how the Southern dialect was often found to be pleasant in the studies observed by Dennis R. Preston, this rhoticity in the accent of people from the West Country is often viewed to be pleasant and people assume such speakers are often happy and friendly.


fink (think)         


Th-fronting refers to the pronunciation of the English “th” as “f” or “v”. When th-fronting is applied, /θ/ becomes /f/ (for example, three is pronounced as free) and /ð/ becomes /v/ (for example, bathe is pronounced as bave). Th-fronting – the use of the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v] for the dental fricatives [θ] and [ð] – is a well known feature of Cockney and was noted by Peter Trudgill as spreading through non-standard accents in England. Although th-fronting is found occasionally in the middle and upper (middle) class English accents as well, there is still a marked social difference between working and middle class speakers. This is because the phoneme /f/ in words like ‘think’ and ‘thumb’ is non-standard English and considered inferior to traditional RP therefore the upper and much of the middle classes are reluctant to pronounce it in this way and instead look to obtain overt prestige. Also, many prescriptivists would point to the spelling of the word as evidence of the “correct” pronunciation – however, as is well known, spelling is no guide to pronunciation, as G B Shaw argued with his famous example: “ghoti”.




The word fit originally meant how physically fit and about how much exercise a person did. It also meant if things were the correct size or shape. Both original meanings do apply to a person’s physical appearance and over time it has broadened to also mean if a person is physically attractive. This has most likely come from the connotations of the word fit being a positive word and to do with a person’s appearance and has in some sense has been ameliorated because it went from being a neutral word to having a positive meaning. This is a social change because it has become a slang word due to it becoming a fashionable word among the younger generation particularly related to the fact that in the recent years society has become very focused on image and appearance. This means the word fit may have also undergone a form of cultural change because of the impact of the media and celebrity culture because people have become fascinated with looking a certain way and this has impacted how language has been affected in the way we describe attractiveness.


flo-aw (floor)         


William Labov studied the dialects of New York City. He noticed that the post-vocalic ‘r’ was considered the prestige dialect which he observed because the use of the ‘r’ varied with level of formality and social class: in the three stores that he visited, ranging from lower, middle to upper class in price and fashion scale, when prompted to say “fourth floor” when asked for directions, the upper class shop assistants pronounced it their most in casual speech (i.e. when asked first time) and then said it in the same way in careful speech (i.e. when asked to repeat.). Of the four classes tested – Lower Class, Working Class, Lower Middle Class & Upper Middle Class, the lower middle class were the most susceptible to the overt prestige of the ‘r’ as they differed most in its usage between the casual speech of being asked the first time and the more careful speech style when asked to repeat




This is a new word which is a blend of frozen and cappuccino (ironically!), and it is now used widely in coffee shops all over the world. It is easier to say than frozen cappuccino/coffee, but now is used to describe a generally frozen drink from a coffee shop. It is mainly used by the younger generation of coffee drinkers, and the term spread fairly quickly. The word cappuccino was originally borrowed from the Italians, along with various other food or beverages words we now use, such as pizza or pasta.




Th-fronting refers to the pronunciation of the English “th” as “f” or “v”. When th-fronting is applied, /θ/ becomes /f/ (for example, three is pronounced as free) and /ð/ becomes /v/ (for example, bathe is pronounced as bave). Th-fronting occurs (in many cases historically independently) in Cockney and Estuary English, as well as in many foreign accents. The use of the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v] for the dental fricatives [θ] and [ð] is a well known feature of Cockney and was noted by Peter Trudgill as spreading through non-standard accents in England. Although th-fronting is found occasionally in the middle and upper (middle) class English accents as well, there is still a marked social difference between working and middle class speakers. This is because the phoneme /f/ in words like ‘think’ and ‘thumb’ is non-standard English and considered inferior to traditional RP therefore the upper and much of the middle classes are reluctant to pronounce it. Pronouncing ‘th’ in such a way is often stereotyped to uneducated, working class people and not considered ‘good’ speech. Popular TV shows like Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses have only served to reinforce this stereotype which is similar to the Southern American drawl stereotyping people as hillbillies as highlighted by Dennis Preston’s arguments on the prejudices which dominate our views on accents.




The Vowel of foot appears in cup in the Midlands and North of England-The foot–strut split is the split of Middle English short /u/ into two distinct phonemes /ʊ/ (as in foot) and /ʌ/ (as in strut) that occurs in most varieties of English; the most notable exceptions being those of Northern England and the English Midlands. The first clear description of the split dates from 1644. The fact that the /ʊ/ sound of ‘put’, ‘could’ used in standard RP English is used for words like ‘strut’ and ‘cup’ too in regions of Northern England and the Midlands e.g. Manchester and Birmingham, rather than having split like speakers of standard English to pronounce the word ‘strut’ with a /ʌ/ sound shows a example of possible covert prestige. Although it is not considered standard and often by many, especially in Southern England, considered inferior, those who speak in such a way have diverged, looking to obtain covert prestige and hoping to distinguish and maintain their own separate identity like the native Martha’s Vineyard speakers observed by Labov.




Broadening: This word originally means a long deep cut but nowadays people use it as a derogatory term to females and because of this, gash is rarely used to refer to a cut. Although this word has not caught on regarding its reference to females, this could be because it is an unpleasant word and perhaps it is common knowledge that there are already far more derogatory terms used for women than men.




The original meaning of the term “gay” is referred to someone who is happy and cheery. However, the meaning of the word has changed to describe someone who is romantically interested in a person of the same sex as them. It is also commonly used in the younger generation to describe someone who can be a fool. Mainly used as a term of offence.  “Oh, you’re so gay!” The fact that the younger generation commonly use this term, although not using the correct meaning shows there has been a change in language.




This word used to refer to a young person, of either gender. ‘Narrowing’ is where a word with a general meaning changes and means something and is applied to something much more specific. Overtime, through narrowing, this word now refers to what would have before been just one example of what it referred to, and now only means a female young person, rather than either male or female.




Why does no one say “I’m gonna bed”?  In this instance “going to” has retained independent meaning – that of going physically to someplace and therefore has a stronger resistance to any kind of change – such as contraction. However, “Going to”, as in “I’m going to kill you.” where “going” is not the lexical verb and so has no semantic content, just a grammatical function (denoting future tense) has lost independent content and so is more exposed to lexical change, as it used more often, in more predictable circumstances and with far less stress, and no independent meaning, it has the inherent potential for change and so it is susceptible to the use of shortcuts in pronunciation. What’s more, the risk of misunderstandings decreased in “I’m gonna stay at home”, so there is no barrier to change. This is also the case with “gotta”, “gimmie”, “let’s”, “don’t”, “o’clock”, “alright”. This neatly illustrates Jean Aitchison’s Potential, Diffusion, Implementation, Codification model, where some words and phrases simply have a potential to change (or a weakness).




The original meaning of ‘googol’ is the number 10100. Complete with a spelling change, ‘Google’ was a neologism used to name the new search engine in 1997. It didn’t take long for the conversion of the proper noun ‘Google’ into the eponymous verb ‘to google’ (or ‘to Google’), the first recorded use of which was in 1998 by its creator Larry Page. Conversions and neologisms are common with technology because when something is invented we have to come up with words to describe it. It was added to the OED in 2006, by which time ‘to use the internet’ or ‘to use a search engine’ had become synonymous with ‘googling’. Several variations of ‘googling’ have arisen, such as ‘googlewhacking’ and ‘book googling’. Replacing the phrase ‘conducting an internet search’ with ‘googling’ is now extremely common across most generations apart from fairly aged people who got left behind in the computer revolution of the 90s. There aren’t any similar words, as ‘Yahooing’ or ‘Asking Jeeves’ doesn’t have the same ring to it and they are not as popular search engines as Google.




The past participle ‘gotten’ is used in American English still such as in the declarative sentence ‘I’ve gotten a cold’, where in Britain we would use ‘got’ such as in ‘I’ve got a cold’. However, in America they do still use both past particle forms, which shows clearly the flexibility of American English, going against the idea that American is corrupting the English language. John Algeo argues against the belief of some people that American English is running the English language – in terms of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. This prescriptivist attitude of people such as Francis Moore and Prince Charles, say that American English is a ‘barbarous language’ which is ‘very corrupting’. However, Algeo argues that ‘change is language is inevitable, just as it is in all others aspects of reality’ and that we should be open to innovation in the English language.




To begin with the word “graffiti” was taken from the word “graffitio” which means to scratch into something. However nowadays the verb “to Graffiti” or the concrete noun “Graffiti” holds a negative meaning and shows evidence of a pejorative word change. Due to social classes of today the word “graffiti” has changed in its meaning. You find ‘graffiti’ on back streets and on public sites, something that is unwanted by many in society. Therefore to graffiti has now gained a negative meaning to its meaning.


grawss & bawd         


Deep rooted division in Belfast between Catholics and Protestants meant that variation in language was not surprising. Protestant men were better off and often employed than Catholic. So pronounced ‘grass’ as ‘grawss’ since that pronunciation marked the speaker as highly integrated members of the superior social network. Whereas the Catholic working class men used the pronunciation of ‘grass’ more. The pronunciation of ‘grass’ spread between the two religious groups through the women that worked at the city centre store. Girls picked up the accents from their customers and spread it to both Protestants and Catholics who were both customers of the store.




The old use of the verb ‘to guess’ which meant ‘think’ or ‘suppose’ is still retained by the Americans. This is evidence to show America is not ‘self-confessed linguistic vandals’ as prescriptivists say, as they are retaining the origins of English words, which have had a semantic shift in Britain. John Algeo argues that ‘a language or anything else that does not change is dead’ – reinforcing that diversity in languages is necessary for the language to extend to new uses and new speakers, and to retain its popularity.




The auxiliary verb ‘have’ is one of the most common words in English, yet it is still a very abstract notion. What do you actually do when you ‘have’ something? If a word for describing ‘having’ something did not exist what would you do, and how would you express the idea?  ‘Have’ would be described by Guy Deutscher as a dead metaphor: it ultimately derives from the Proto-Indo-European root ‘kap’ which mean seize. The original meaning survives in the Latin root ‘cap’ which we still use today in words like capture, captive, capable and even catches. So our language has changed to give us a word for an abstract concept, in this case “possession”, it has subsequently been stripped of all of its old meaning, leaving us a very useful word which is essential as both a lexical verb and an auxiliary verb. Guy Deutscher:  “ …the flow of metaphors towards abstraction is beginning to reveal how life and death in language are entwined. Whereas in poetry metaphors turn into empty clichés once they die of over-use, in everyday language dead metaphors are the alluvium from which grammatical structures emerge. Like a reef, which grows from layer upon layer of dead coral skeletons, new structures in language can rise from the layers of dead metaphors deposited by the flow towards abstraction.’”




Reduction in English of syllables in endings of words is something which has been going on for a long time. For example, there used to be two syllables used for plural endings, now there is just one. An example of this is with the second person ‘you her-est’, which has now just become ‘you hear’. This is likely to have happened because it felt too broad previously, and it is easier to say the latter more quickly. For Guy Deutscher – a radical prescriptivist – this would be evidence of the English language becoming more economical, and thus improving as opposed to falling apart like a crumbling castle as in Jean Aitchison’s parody of the prescriptivist position.




This is a word used by Guy Deutscher to illustrate his theory of “ease of articulation” – that sounds which are easier to articulate will replace those that are harder to say – this is an instance of the language becoming more efficient – which is a key factor in change according to Deutscher. “Heart” started as ‘kerd’ ‘k’ changed to ‘h’ ‘hert’ and then finally reached “heart”. This is an example which follows from the ‘elders of Idleford’ story about how we gradually change our language for ease and efficiency of speech. The sound ‘h’ is easier to say than ‘k’, because when we say ‘h’ we do not have to really move our mouth, or move our tongue at all, whereas the sound ‘k’ requires us to use our tongue and the whole of our mouth to a larger degree, therefore people will choose an ‘h’ sound over others due to how much faster it is to say.




Previously meaning a host of angels, the word underwent pejoration when people began to use it to refer to the monarchy. As democracy spread throughout the twentieth century and the monarchy became less popular, the word became a term for a small group of people who have power over the masses.




‘Hit’ still means a strike or physical blow, but it has come to mean many other things too because of broadening. A ‘hit’ is a result of a search of a computer system or, for example, the entire Internet using a search engine. This semantic shift occurred to fill a lexical gap because prior to the nineties there were no such things as Internet searches and no such things as search results. This is a widely used synonym for ‘results’ across all of the generations that are computer literate because, other than ‘results’, there aren’t many alternative ways of saying ‘hit’. ‘Hit’ can also be taken to mean an inhalation of marijuana, as when ‘taking a hit off the bong’, or an injection of heroin, as when addicts talk about ‘finding their next hit’. This may be because of the instantaneous and forceful nature of the effects caused by drug use. Because of the connotations of violence that ‘hit’ has, its use here makes the drug-taking seem more illicit and risky. If somebody is ‘a hit with the ladies’, it means that they are well liked by women. Usage of ‘hit’ in this context spawned ‘hit’, or ‘smash hit’ being used to describe films or songs that are violently successful in the charts. When something is ‘a hit in the charts’ it has done very well, has good sales or is well liked by reviewers and the public. ‘Smash hit’ has connotations of breaking records and new levels of success so perhaps ‘hit’ was first used in this context to demonstrate the force of the reaction that the ‘hit’ attraction creates. In the context of ‘I’d hit that’, ‘hit’ means ‘have sex with’ (in a highly objectifying manner), and ‘to hit on someone’ means to come onto them. It is replaceable with other slang terms for sex in this phrase such as ‘tap’ or ‘do’. ‘Hit’ exemplifies the physical nature of the statement and perhaps hints at the disrespect aimed at the subject, where they are the victim of the action. This use is more typical amongst misogynistic young men as they are often the only group shallow enough to make flippant comments like this, however women are not completely innocent in its usage. Some people would be flattered to overhear this but others would be offended to be reduced to a target, so ‘hit’ in this context is usually used to shock, make laughs or encourage similar sentiments. In blackjack, players ask the dealer to ‘hit me’ when they want a new card, whereas in the context of ‘I’ll hit you back later’, it replaces ‘pay’. These uses are not owing to a lexical gap but because English speakers are always searching for innovative and more casual ways to express themselves. ‘Hit’ simply sounds more street that ‘pay’ or ‘give’. In the business of contract killing, ‘hit’ in a sentence such as ‘The assassin’s next hit was a dot-com millionaire with a dodgy toupee and more money than sense’, is interchangeable with ‘job’, ‘target’ or ‘victim’. Assassins (snipers in particular) tend to use guns, where a direct hit of the target would be a job done. Of course, the face that ‘hit’ has violent connotations makes it very applicable to this situation. It might also make their job easier for the killers to discuss; if overheard, ‘hit’ is harmless whereas ‘the person I am going to kill’ may attract unwanted attention.


hoc die         


In Latin, “Hoc Die” meaning “On this day” was blended to form “Hodie” which had the meaning “Today”. The French use of this noun was shortened or ‘eroded’ to “hui”. Yet “Hui” did not hold enough emphasis for a word, and so it was extended to “au jour d’hui” meaning “on the day of this day”. Au jour d’hui was then compounded to make “aujourd’hui”, the commonly used term today. Yet this has also been compacted so much that its emphasis as a word is not considered enough by many people, who have started to use the formation “au jour d’aujourd’hui” which has the literal meaning “on the day of on the day of this day”. In the forces of creation, Guy Deutscher proposes that what some people call decay in language is actually part of a continual process which regenerates language over and over again as words are changed to make them more convenient for people to use.




Originally the name of a particular brand of vacuum cleaner, the word underwent conversion and began to be used as a verb to make language more convenient. The noun also underwent broadening as it is now often used to desvribe any vacuum cleaner- not just the ‘hoover’ brand




In the past, “hot” used to refer to temperature, or the high heat of an object or a person. However, over time, the meaning has broadened, and now the word has multiple meanings. The word “hot” now often also refers to someone who is physically attractive.
This word has undergone broadening because it is clear some people started using the word “hot” to refer to physical attractiveness and it just spread around more and got more popular.


I knows how…         


The use of non-standard verbs alternated randomly with the use of conventional forms in the speech of male and female adolescents described as ‘tough’ children. It was found that girls seemed more aware of the need to conform to Standard English in formal situations than boys. This shows language change as women tend to lean towards the standard prestige pronunciation.


I talk horrible         


Missing off the suffix ‘ly’ to the adverb ‘horrible’ makes this sentence grammatically incorrect according to the SE dialect. In Peter Trudgill’s experiment in Norwich an informant stated ‘I talk horrible’ but when really asked about why they do not change the way the speak if they are unhappy with it, they admitted that although they do not talk with standard speech they didn’t really want to change as it would be considered foolish and arrogant by their family and friends. Women report that they use more overt prestige Standard English than they actually do. This dishonesty is not deliberate and shows that they are subconsciously dissatisfied with the way they speak and would prefer to speak with a more standard form. ‘No conscious deceit plays a part in this process, most of the respondents seemed to perceive their own speech in terms of the norms at which they are aiming rather than the sound actually produced.’




This word still keeps its meaning of somebody feeling unwell, or sick. However now it is used to describe an event or object for youths. It is however very looked down upon by adults, and even most youths as it is considered very lower class and ‘chavvy’. This word hasn’t really caught on and has not spread very much. Youths throughout the country are definitely aware of the word but some refuse to use it, and when they do it is in a mocking manner.  When the word was at its peak it was around 5 years ago, but is now slowly dying out. Again this shows youths attempt to take over language and create new words to suit their society.


IM Speak         


Laziness and need for rapid information exchange have caused many new acronyms to spawn in recent years. They save time and keystrokes for the sender but may cause confusion to the receiver if they don’t know what that particular initialism means. These mainly occur over the internet, but some crop up in everyday conversation, for example ‘LOL’ and ‘ROFL’. ‘LOL’ is used to show laughter in cases where it is rare that the sender is actually laughing out loud but wishes to convey their amusement without writing ‘hahahahahahaaa!’. It is popular because it gives a physical representation to somebody’s appreciation of humour, however now ‘LOL’ is so commonly used that very few people get a mental image when it is used. ‘LOL’ can just be used as a replacement for ‘that was funny’. These terms are used primarily amongst the younger generations (or misused amongst the older ones) because it is teenagers and young adults who tend to use MSN and Facebook Chat, where such initialisms are commonplace. Some, like ‘BRB’, can only be used in the context of an IM conversation, where interaction happens in real-time. Others, such as ‘ILY’ and ‘CBA’ have wormed their way into normal speech. ‘CBA’ has suffered further amendments; ‘ceebs’ is now recognised as an acceptable substitute for ‘I can’t be arsed’, and only exemplifies the sentiment as the user has shortened a four syllable sentence to a monosyllabic utterance. Simarly, ‘ROFL’ and ‘LMAO’ (or ‘LMFAO’ for extra emphasis) are sometimes blended to create ‘ROFLMAO’ as a superlative demonstration of laughter. IM Speak is unpopular amongst prescriptionists who blame it for a decline in written grammar and spelling. It arrived very quickly with the emergence of instant messenger, MSN, and other internet chat functions and quickly found its way into informal written language. What worries those who oppose language change is how these initialisms, abbreviations and sayings have cropped up in spoken language and in written work where such spellings and phrases are inappropriate (particularly in secondary school pupils where use of MSN is most common).




This word has been present since the 16th Century and was used to describe somebody who was mentally ill, had the mental capacity of a young child or a low level of intelligence. Nowadays it is deemed quite an offensive term even though it was originally used to describe somebody’s mental well being. The word is used in offence nowadays in order to tell someone they are mentally stupid and it is also used offensively towards physical disabilities. The meaning of the word has broadened however it is not often used within our language now, similar to the word “retard”. It is more likely we would say somebody is “mentally disabled” rather than call them an “imbecile”.


implied & inferred         


‘Implied’ means that something she said hinted or gave clues to, without saying it outright. ‘Inferred’ means that the behaviour or speech was so that she was able to deduce from it. These all link to Peter Trudgill’s argument English wouldn’t be made harder if meanings change because context makes it clear which meaning is used. Both of these are used interchangeably and there is never any confusion, soon one will drop out of usage as we are beginning to use them both for both meanings even though we know their original ‘correct’ meaning.


in ten         


This prepositional phrase which omits the timescale “minutes” is now often used as an indication of time. It takes many forms such as “see you in ten” and is now widely known of its meaning. This is an example of how we change language to fit our “lazy nature” and omit unnecessary words that are not needed to further meaning. Language when referring to timescales is quite peculiar for example one may say “see you later” which infers that the people will see each other again at some point in that week when in fact what they really mean to say is “bye”. It shows that in different contexts language can be used incorrectly but still make sense in that context.




People may think a language is “not good enough”, according to Ray Harlow, other than not being able to fulfil a wide range of functions, because people may think it is not attractive. He uses the Roman dialect as an example which some people used to think was “savage and wretched” because this reflected the behaviour of the Roman soldiers. Harlow concludes that a language cannot be “not good enough” because languages are always changing, as are opinions about languages. What Jean Aitchison parodies as the “damp spoon syndrome” of certain prescriptivist opinions, that words such as “innit” are seen as inherently bad – but no word or phrase or usage can be, in and of itself, bad. Irrational rejudice accounts for all of such opinions – there is no basis in fact, no evidence, for such an opinion.


ism and “ize” suffixes         


These suffixes are taken from the Greek language and are another example of how English borrows structures from other languages. This also supports Noah Webster’s belief that “had the English never been acquainted with Greek or Latin they would never have thought of one half the distinctions and rules which make up our English grammar.” Ray Harlow explains that a language’s vocabulary can develop through a process called “borrowing” and that English has borrowed from several different languages especially from Latin and Greek.




This is a blending of ‘jeans’ and ‘leggings’, which are close fitting, stretchy trousers that are designed to look like denim jeans. As fashion is constantly changing, people have to come up new words to suit the new changes in fashion. Similarly, ‘miniskirt’ and ‘nylon’ (though originally for parachutes!) came about because of fashion. These words are invented by fashionable retailers or designers, and then branded as the word, and so the words are more and more widely used by the public. Fashion and language constantly change – all languages change just as fashions change. In fact, aspects of language go in and out of fashion. Words undergo semantic shift among younger people, such as ‘sick’ and ‘safe’. These words replaced ‘cool’ as it went out of fashion, and now they in turn have gone out of fashion as new words replace them.




The American pronunciation of “John” can sound like “Jan” to a Scot and the Scottish pronunciation of “John” can sound like “Joan” to an American. This example shows how differences in vowels can make accents difficult to understand even to other English speakers. Professor David Abercrombie of Edinburgh said one of the “strands” of accent that what one must distinguish is the “short consonant and vowel sounds which alternate in rapid succession”, like in the “John” example, because these make one accent differ from another. John H. Esling argues that every individual has an accent even if they may think that they do not. Esling says accent is important because it shapes our character and communicates who we are. Accents can be used to tell where a person is from, what gender they may be, their age and even what occupation they have taken up. As well as having differences between accents in different areas, differences between individuals also exist. John H. Esling states we may also find it difficult to distinguish between accents of foreign speakers. However, if we are more exposed to that language, we can then work out which speech patterns are similar and which are different and work out how accents in that language differ depending on the part of the country they come from.




Nicholas Evans attempts to dispel the myth that “Aborigines speak a primitive language”. He writes that this myth constitutes a number of ‘sub-myths’ which are, that there is just one Aboriginal language, that Aboriginal languages have no grammar, that the vocabularies of Aboriginal languages are simple and lack detail or that they are cluttered with details and are unable to deal with abstraction, and that Aboriginal languages may be alright in the bush, but they can’t deal with the twentieth century. The preconception that the vocabulary is very limited in Aboriginal languages is addressed by explaining that in many lexical fields, Aboriginal languages are much more extensive than English. For example the word “Kalurlhlurlme” in the Aboriginal language “Kunwinjku” is used for “the hopping of an agile wallaby.” Kunwinjku has many different verbs to describe the different manners of hopping of various Macropods where other languages like English do not as they have not had the need.  As there is no equivalent in English, it could be said that in this case English is an inferior language.                                                                                                     




This is an example of a German compound which has been formed using the two nouns, “Kinder” (children) and “wagon” (cart/trolley). In English, we have some compounded words like “laptop” which is an example of development from within and also a word that has been created because of developments in society. Ray Harlow argues that people should not say a language “isn’t good enough” just because it does not fulfil a wide range of functions. He says that some languages are only thought to be better than others because they have developed differently.




Originally meaning disabled or injured, this word underwent pejoration in the late twentieth century when young people began to use it as an adjective meaning ‘uncool’.  This is due to the negative connotations of disability being taken out of context and exaggerated. It may be said that the usage of this word followed the ‘S curve’ pattern as there was a sharp increasein its usage which has eased off in recent years


le week-end         


This is a French word which they have borrowed through the popular use of it in the English language, instead of using ‘au fin de semaine’. This can be also said for the word ‘shopping’ which is present in everyday French speech. This can support Harlow’s view that languages that borrow from other languages are the ones that are likely to stay being the most popular and widely used. However, the French also have “l’Acadèmie Française” which is supposed to preserve the French language. If the French continue to stop borrowing words, the language may well become less popular because it will not be developing with changes in society.




Ray Harlow suggests that languages which are more flexible tend to be the ones that develop the quickest and so become the most popular. An example of how English is a flexible language is that it is becoming more regular. People are accepting new forms of words in order to make the language more regular. For example, the past participle “learnt” exists alongside the newer past participle “learned”. Many English past participles are now adopting the “ed” ending. In the future we may start seeing past participles such as “taught” becoming “teached”.


lend & borrow         


Both have slightly different ‘correct’ meanings but as it is such a fine line many people do not know the difference. Again people are beginning to use whichever they chose in the situation they are saying it in, people still see in some situations using the wrong lexis as grammatically incorrect as in, ‘can I lend your bike?’. But this usage of both words for the same meaning is not making it more confusing, only people who think they are of a higher class feel the need to correct on the difference of lend and borrow. These all link to Peter Trudgill’s argument English wouldn’t be made harder if meanings change because context makes it clear which meaning is used.




Originally meant non-ecclesiastical, which would of have had negative connotations given the country’s love of religion. From that, it then came to mean uneducated and unlearned, which developed into meaning vulgar and lower-class. As the upper classes used to have a very low opinion of those of a lower social status than themselves and thought they were all rude and stupid, lewd then began to mean bad-mannered and ignorant, thanks to the bad opinion of the lower classes. however, the word underwent its biggest semantic shift when more recently it acquired a sexual connotation, nowadays meaning sexually insinuating. it underwent a sudden narrowing which cancelled out all other meanings as its denotation is affected. this shows how particular connotations, such as sexual, overpower the others due to society’s attitude to sexual things.




Jenny Cheshire notes that conventional frameworks of analyses have no way of accounting for words that are becoming grammaticalized, and the meaning of the word is therefore undergoing grammatical change. ‘Like’ is becoming a marker of reported speech and thought. Therefore grammatical analyses have no way of accounting for variation in general. This is also evident with ‘going to’, which is now being used as a future time marker. Jenny Cheshire observes that the people typically writing descriptions of language are ‘middle-aged’ academics who have spent many years immersed in language, and therefore this speech is perhaps not representative of the speech of the majority of educated speakers of English.




‘Like’ insertion, the frequent use of the filler ‘like’ which carries no semantic meaning, is considered grammatically incorrect or non-standard i.e. it diverges from what is considered standard English and so is often viewed as inferior. It is thought to have originated within Estuary speech and American-English speech and spread throughout the UK. This is often portrayed as a feature of the speech of ‘youth’ and immediately draws prejudice towards them.




Saying “I was like don’t bother me” in an interview, despite excellent qualifications, will be detrimental to any application for a job. Language discrimination, based on such minor mistakes of spoken English will make a candidate with a London accent be rejected from interview. Sociolinguistics may argue that it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of linguistics grounds, just as it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of colour or race. James Milroy believes that “standardisation inhibits linguistic change and variability.” However, he thinks that it does not and cannot stop linguistic change from happening, no matter how slow the process, as standardisation “leaks.” Linguistic analysis tries to pinpoint the lexical and conversational functions of like and find out how it contributes to modern society and to our knowledge of changing use of English language. According to the prescriptivist, people must be stopped from speaking in this way as it is non-standard. However, it is a typical English for a certain age group in the UK.




Through the introduction of ‘text speak’, new words have been formed in English language. The acronym “LOL” is an initialism for ‘laugh out loud’ and supports the infectious disease parody. This acronym is widening in use, first used only in writing via the Internet but more frequently it is now becoming a common word in everyday speech. Other languages are also following this pattern, for example the French equivalent ‘MDR’ (Mort de rire – died of laughing). Ray Harlow says languages develop to fulfil a wide range of functions but this example shows how words can develop to fulfil different functions.




Looking glass used for mirror and other such upper class forms of language that, with time, are merely viewed as quaint anachronisms, showing that language regarded as standard or mainstream is not necessarily the language spoken by those of the highest social class. Prestige language is therefore not identical in every respect with an ideal standard language and those with highest social prestige are not directly linked with their prestige of language. Indeed, stigmatised features of upper-class language have reflected features of lower-class language, shown through the dropping of g’s and h’s. James Milroy argues that this shows that it is very often stigma rather than prestige that connects society with language.




This word originated from ‘hlaf-weard’ meaning loaf-warden or bread keeper. ‘hlaf-wead’ was shortened to ‘hlaford’ to remove a syllable, then ‘laferd’ until finally the word ‘lord’ which we use now, with just one syllable came about. Here Deutscher is using examples to show how the middle of words can also be gouged out, it is not just letters/syllables at the start or the end of a word that can easily be lost. This process of simplifying the pronunciation of words – thus making the language more efficient or more economical – is one of the three key drivers of language change according to Deutscher – the three being economy, analogy & expressiveness.




The original meaning was pleasure, such as the pleasure that great treasure would have brought, but it underwent specialisation and pejoration, as speakers began to associate it with only one type of pleasure. This narrowing again shows how one type of connotations, especially sexual, can overshadow all other meanings.




Originally meaning a collection of stalls for purchasing goods, the word underwent broadening during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. gaining the meaning of a demand for a particular product, e.g. “there is a market for…” This was an economical change encouraged by the industrial revolution which increased production of goods and therefore the economy.




The word ‘menu’ is of French origin. This is an example of borrowing as it shows how we have taken this French word and fitted it into the English language we know and use today. The word ‘menu’ is the only word used to describe the list of food/drink items or meals that you can purchase and it is very difficult to think of a word or phrase that you would use instead. The word ‘menu’ is not exclusive in the English language to its cuisine related meaning and has been taken to also mean a list of options available to a computer user. This shows how with technological developments, words have been borrowed or used again in order to fill the need for a word, this can also been seen with the noun ‘mouse’.


Moose (mouse)         


In his study in Martha’s Vineyard, William Labov focused on realisations of the diphthongs [aw] and as in mouse. On Martha’s Vineyard the locals were changing their vowel sounds from 30 years ago. He interviewed a number of speakers drawn from different ages and ethnic groups on the island, and noted that among the younger (31-45 years) speakers a movement seemed to be taking place away from the pronunciations associated with the standard New England norms, and towards a pronunciation associated with conservative and characteristically Vineyard speakers – the Chilmark fishermen (i.e. from [au] to [əu]). The heaviest users of this type of pronunciation were young men who actively sought to identify themselves as Vineyarders, rejected the values of the mainland, and resented the encroachment of wealthy summer visitors on the traditional island way of life. Thus, these speakers seem to be exploiting the resources of the non-standard accent. When Labov interviewed the inhabitants, there seemed to be no conscious awareness that the rest of the island seemed to be imitating this vowel change from the fishermen. They subconsciously changed their vowel – so moose being a covert prestige pronunciation of mouse.




The concrete noun “Mosquito” has been borrowed from the Spanish language. A lot of words in English have been borrowed from other languages. This is because the English language either did not have a word for something or the borrowed word was preferred over an already existing word.  Ray Harlow says that English would have never become a language that fulfils a wide range of functions if it wasn’t for borrowing. He also says, “All languages do this some to extent, though English is perhaps the language which has the highest level of ‘borrowed’ vocabulary.”




Americans generally retain the r-sound in the common noun ‘mother’, unlike British which has lost it. This could perhaps show a counterargument to presciptivists who believe American is corrupting the English language, as this is an example of the Americans pronouncing the word as it is truly spelt. John Algeo argues against the belief of some people that American English is running the English language – in terms of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. This prescriptivist attitude of people such as Francis Moore and Prince Charles, say that American English is a ‘barbarous language’ which is ‘very corrupting’. However, Algeo argues that ‘change is language is inevitable, just as it is in all others aspects of reality’ and that we should be open to innovation in the English language.




Originally a noun used to describe a small, long-tailed rodent, and an adjective to describe a very timid person. mouse has undergone broadening and conversion and is now most commonly used as the noun associated with computers, the hand-held device used to move the cursor. this semantic shift occurred out of necessity, the invention of, and advances in, computing. words that have undergone similar change for the same reasons are bug and virus, having also undergone broadening and conversion to now mean problems with technology, specifically computers, not just human illness.




The word ‘naughty’ at one time had the same meaning as ‘bad,’ however, that meaning has now completely changed. Naughty today means something mischievous whilst also still being socially acceptable. This new use of the word ‘naughty’ is highlighted by shop owner’s use of the word. For example in shop names such as ‘naughty but nice’ etc. despite the word naughty coming from a Middle English word meaning ‘evil and wicked.’ During the 16th century naughty was used to mean “unhealthy, unpleasant, bad (with respect to weather), vicious (of an animal), inferior, or bad in quality.” All of these senses have disappeared, however, and naughty is now used mainly in contexts involving mischief or indecency. Other words that have very limited meaning and are ‘empty’ include the word ‘wuss,’ which the urban dictionary describes as someone who is ‘physically weak and ineffectual.’


nefew (nephew)         


Most of us nowadays tend to use a <f> sound in this word. The <v> is the traditional pronunciation for speakers of all accents, but is rarely heard among younger speakers nowadays. It is unclear why this change has occurred, but it is probably because of the spelling. Over the past 100 years or so, access to education has increased and thus more of us are aware of the written appearance of the word. A similar process has happened with the word if. This would be an example of how education is actually increasing the rate of language change in some instances, and not, as some prescriptivist would have it, especially those sarcastically labelled by Jean Aitchison as having the “damp spoon view”, as a result of stupidity and laziness, as well as maybe simple bad manners.




Jenny Cheshire addresses the idea of ‘never’ functioning as a negative marker. She notes that the conventional analyses see ‘never’ as an indeterminate, equivalent to ‘not ever’. However ‘never’ cannot be seen as equivalent to ‘not ever’ in situations where the time reference is to a restricted period of time, as in ‘I never went out last night’, where ‘never’ could not be replaced by ‘not ever’. Cheshire is making the point that conventional analyses miss this point, and it breaks the idea of ‘one form, one meaning’. Instead Cheshire states that instead ‘never’ in this context is labelled as ‘non-standard’, even though it is frequently used in this way in educated speech and in writing.




Is an aboriginal language word, which means ‘I cooked the wrong meat for them again’, which demonstrates the point of Nicholas Evans that just because a language has a different grammatical structure, it is not a lesser language and just as much meaning can be conveyed. The myth that “there’s no grammar in Aboriginal languages, that you can just chuck the words together in any order” is explained by the fact that, like Latin or Russian, most Aboriginal languages use word endings rather than word order to create meaning. So while it is true that words can be put in any order, it does not indicate a lack of grammar. Some Aboriginal languages work use such highly complex verbs able to express a complete sentence.




From skei meaning ‘cut’ which came from down into Latin as the verb ‘to know’ via a meaning such as ‘be able to distinguish one thing from another. Two forms gave Latin verbs ‘nescire’ to be ignorant of.  Adjective nesius ‘ignorant’ into old French nice ‘silly’, borrowed into medieval English as ‘foolish, sly’ then over centuries ‘modest’ ‘delicate’ ‘considerate’ ‘pleasant’ ‘agreeable’ but really the original meaning was ‘not cutting’ Links to Peter Trudgill’s argument that changing meanings is a good thing to fit with current needs.




This word used to refer to something being “stupid” or “foolish”, and in the dictionary the word “nice” referred to stupidity in the late 13th century but over time has semantically changed and now means something that is pleasant. This word has undergone amelioration, because at first it referred to stupidity or foolishness, but has upgraded and changed into meaning something positive, and this word has overtime been used more often and the word has completely changed in meaning.




This word started as the phrase ‘nothing whatsoever’ but was over used and so reduced over time, eventually becoming just ‘no’, the negative we use today. This is an example of attrition where words are reduced in order to be easier to say whilst still retaining their old meaning. This destructive force, in Guy Deutscher’s theory, is a natural factor in all language change – which is making our words easier to articulate and so making our language more economical. This can be seen in a language such as Italian over the centuries, where the end of word consonants have been worn away by constant use – through practitioners being more efficient or economical in their use of the word (though prescriptivists would term this laziness) – the result is that most words in Italian now end in vowels.


not going nowhere         


Multiple/double negative. Indicator of vernacular loyalty for boys as Jenny Cheshire found it was spoken less in a formal situation eg school, and people who are more strongly adhering to vernacular culture use it more than people who are less adhering. However both groups of girls (belonging to and not belonging to vernacular culture) use it at the same frequency. It overtly symbolises belonging to the vernacular culture as people who strongly adhere to the vernacular culture use it more. Jenny Cheshire found that speakers who are favourably disposed towards each other and who are working towards a common goal adjust their speech so that they each speak more like the other – linguistic accommodation – while speakers who are not working towards a common goal may diverge in their linguistic behaviour.


onvelope (envelope)         


This is an example of language change possibly influenced by spelling include ate, and envelope: younger speakers tend to rhyme “ate” with gate rather than with get and in the word “envelope” the initial vowel tends nowadays to rhyme more often with den rather than with don. This kind of language change does not point to the influence of covert or overt prestige. That is, unless speakers changed their speech in this way because of hypercorrect pronunciation when they realised that it was spelt the same as e.g. philosophy and phone, then this would be a case of mistaken overt prestige. Aside from that, this example contradicts the prescriptivist view of people like Lynn Truss that English is a ‘crumbling castle’ because dialect changes like this show the increasing regularisation of English; it is perhaps becoming more logical.




Shop assistant phenomenon; travel assistant in Wales varied the number of h’s her speech, depending on how many customers dropped their h’s. Shows how people chatting together imitate one another and pick up aspects of the other’s speech and accommodates it into their own = language change and spread. Aitchison presents the idea that changes move from group to group, sometimes via people who casually come into contact with each other and accommodate their speech to each other in minor ways, resulting in them picking up some of each other’s language and carrying it across when speaking with their other friends.




H dropping is a linguistic term used to describe the omission of initial /h/ in words like house, heat, and hangover in many dialects of English, such as Cockney and Estuary English.  This tendency to delete the initial <h> sound in words such as happy and house – first provoked comment in the eighteenth century and has been avoided by the middle classes. Such speech has also been popularised by programmes like Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses of which both feature working class characters and who, in the latter, are often made out to be quite stupid. Therefore a strong tendency to H-drop and generally ‘talk cockney’ immediately inspires negative judgement on people. Sometimes speakers prone to H-dropping consciously seek to avoid it in formal situations and end up inserting an [h] inappropriately, resulting in often caricatured pronunciations such as honest with the [h] intact, or statements such as what an orrible hexperience. This phenomenon is known as hypercorrection, and might explain the increasingly common pronunciation of the letter h (aitch) as if it were haitch. If someone is heard adding h’s where they are not meant to be pronounced, they are often mocked and people consider them inferior.




The original definition of this word is ‘a collection of things wrapped or boxed together i.e. parcel.’ It would be used for objects being placed together in a container. More recently, it is often used by women who tend to talk more discretely about men’s genitals e.g. “check out his package.” The semantics of the word are still fairly similar, as the object is compact, for example, under male’s trousers and inside a box. But the connotations of the word are different as the more recent meaning suggests rudeness and could be found quite offensive, whereas the original meaning could be used by anyone. This change is a conversion and has come about as sexual awareness is more open in the media and in the general public, so people aren’t embarrassed to talk about it.




The word pimp originally referred to a someone who found and managed clients for prostitutes and engages them in prostitution, taking a cut of their earnings, often running brothels but sometimes street prostitution. Thanks to the television programme ‘Pimp My Ride’, the meaning has broadened, as it now also means to renovate a car, making it fashionable and/or flashy. This has broadened again to simply mean ‘to make more glamorous’. This is a media-led change, and these changes are getting more and more prevalent. The media is fast-moving and so is their language – and its effects on everyday language. Look at the use of ‘SuBo’ instead of Susan Boyle (questioning our laziness as it is so much easier to say!) and also look at the use of ‘gate’ when referring to a political scandal. This is from the original Watergate scandal, and now most political scandals take the suffix ‘-gate’ meaning scandal. Lately this has begun to apply to other scandals, such as ‘Sachs-gate’.




The word ‘queue’ can also be pronounced in different ways using the pronunciation [kju] or [ku] it would be non Standard English to pronounce it as [ku] as RP would be [kju]. Peter Trudgill looked at a survey carried out in Norwich in 1974, correlating phonetic and phonological variables with social class, age and stylistic context. The relationship that obtain between linguistic phenomena and sex showed that women were more prone to be influenced by the overt prestige of the RP pronunciation, whilst men were more prone to be influenced by the covert prestige of the Non-RP pronunciation.




Stemming from the word “radical” meaning extreme or drastic, “rad” is not commonly used although is a part of our language today, meaning something cool, something hip or something crazy. It is also considered to be a form of praise that is why somebody could say “she’s actually pretty rad when you get to know her, even if she is quiet at first”. The word “rad” has become more predominant in our language over the last thirty years as U.S. youth slang use of “radical” meaning cool and at the limits of control was then clipped to just “rad”. This language change occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. This shows evidence of the substratum theory of language change as language has travelled to us from America.




Original meaning of forcing someone/raping, underwent semantic change: new meaning of a complementary phrase when describing someone’s appearance semantic shift: sense of the word expands to greater meanings; example of a contronym: a word which has undertaken a similar process to semantic reversal but has also retained its original meaning, people still use both actively




the verb ‘retard’, which comes from Latin origin, previously meant to cause to move or proceed slowly. However the verb form has undergone conversion and ‘retard’ is now used as a noun. The noun is used to mean a mentally retarded person, someone who has special needs and is now not seen as politically correct. With time, came the adaptation of meaning once again with it not being exclusive to mentally ill people and instead it became an offensive slang word for anybody seen as slow or has done something foolish.




The original meaning is to slow someone down and hold them back. It is now commonly used again as a term of offence towards someone who is slow, or slightly stupid. Often used in the younger generation and between teenagers when joking, again it shows language has changed over time as it is not commonly used between the older generation.




This is an abbreviation for the much loved film genre of “Romantic Comedy”. It originates from America in reference to a new type of film genre i.e. the Romantic Comedy. However as America has a global impact its films and this new genre of films were viewed by millions over the world. As a new genre of film, other countries for example us in Britain had no name for this new genre and so “latched on” to the American abbreviation “rom-com”. This is an example of Bailey’s wave model as the abbreviation “Rom-Com” has first been used in America and has now spread globally. “Rom-Com” is widely used by many be that cinema visitors to film critics it is now an everyday part of language. There are other names for “Rom-Com” such as “Chick-flick” which depicts this type of film’s audience. However whilst the noun “Rom-Com” has become integrated into our everyday language there are other Americanisms such as “Making out” that whilst are widely understood by us our not used. This is because us as the British have our own words to refer to the action of “making out” for example “getting off” or “snogging” and therefore we did not need another clause. But as the romantic comedy was a new type of film genre we had no words or abbreviations for it and therefore there was a “lexical gap” and therefore need in our language for this abbreviation to fit.


s suffix         


In non-standard English an -s suffix on present tense verbs is frequently seen, for example in ‘I loves Elvis, he’s great.’ There is not in examples like this, agreement between the verb and the subject, but they appear to have functions in topic management and in turn-taking, and they seem to occur as unanalysed wholes. Jenny Cheshire believes that we do not discover a discourse function and its effect on variation unless we specifically set out to look for it. What is glibly dismissed by grammarians of Standard English as non-standard forms, are very often important features of spoken language which it relies on to work: spoken language and written language work in different ways, so we should expect them to have different rules, and not suppose that any variation from SE is simply non-standard and a regional or social variation.




This word has semantically changed too, although it still widely known as its original meaning. Among the young generation it now means good, or cool. However the elder generation, and still youths use the meaning of to keep something safe, away from danger. People may associate this word as lower class and the people that use it may be considered uneducated in some parts of the country. The new meaning spread fairly quickly, but not so much with the older generation. They may often use the original meaning of the word still, confusing some younger generations. This highlights how the youth of today enjoy creating new words and keeping on trend with their vocabularies. Similar words are ‘sick’ ‘heavy’ and ‘wicked’ which are popular among youths.




From Greek, for flesh tearing, and is related to sarcophagus, meaning flesh eating. It is now an indispensible word where the original literal meaning is not used. This change fits with Guy Deutscher’s view that metaphors help expand a language’s capacity for expression. Though we could have made up a word (neologism) to label this concept, it is far easier for a language and its users to adapt pre-existing ingredients. Semantic change would seem, therefore, to be far more common than lexical change, as well as being harder to measure, as sometimes meanings can change almost imperceptibly. Over time the connotations of some words shift slightly, either broadening or narrowing, or even taking on whole new, and sometimes, metaphorical meanings, such as “head”, the original meaning of which is still used but now it is also used to describe a person in charge or ‘at the top’  like a Head teacher.  This metaphorical meaning expresses effectively the abstract concept of being in charge of something.




Eighteenth century grammarians promoted the use of a single past tense verb rather than several different forms for the same verb. This has led to ‘saw’ becoming the past tense form for ‘see’, and the others such as ‘seed’ are no longer used by speakers who want to appear educated. This drive to reduce variation has partly been due to a desire to eliminate what was seen as redundancy in language. This has led to variation being fairly unusual and therefore when it does exist it seems to attract the attention of analysts. Jenny Cheshire names this the idea of ‘one form, one meaning’.




Originally an Irish surname which was anglicized from the Gaelic version “O Scolaidhe”, which means “descendant of the scholar” semantic change: new meaning of a person, usually male, who is a miscreant, irresponsible and self-assured. It was also a term for a Liverpudlian youth. example of pejoration: meaning of the word has grown more negative with time, idea people seem more likely to drag words down and create more negative definitions than to ameliorate them




The wide use of the German word “Schaden-Freude” is an example of borrowing in English where there is no English equivalent. Borrowing words from other languages is sometimes seen as a weakness in a language but, maintaining the flexibility to use words from other languages to express certain concepts is vital in maintaining the expressive ability of a language. Nicholas Evans attempts to dispel the myth that “Aborigines speak a primitive language”. He writes that this myth constitutes a number of ‘sub-myths’ which are, that there is just one Aboriginal language, that Aboriginal languages have no grammar, that the vocabularies of Aboriginal languages are simple and lack detail or that they are cluttered with details and are unable to deal with abstraction, and that Aboriginal languages may be alright in the bush, but they can’t deal with the twentieth century. English I only the language it is today through extensive borrowing and change – something any language can do. “Combinations of compounding and extension are a common way of dealing with novel concepts- when a text on nuclear physics has to be translated into an Aboriginal language such as Walipri, for example, a new compound verb was coined to mean ‘cause nuclear fission’ by using root meaning ‘hit’ and an element meaning ‘be scattered’. The fact that Walpiri can now be used to discuss central concepts of nuclear physics is clear testimony to the adaptability of Aboriginal languages.”




Americans retain a secondary stress on the penultimate syllable on words such as ‘secretary’. The British however have lost both the stress and often the vowel, reducing the word to three syllables, ‘secret’ry’. This British pronunciation is evidence supporting the ‘Damp Spoon Syndrome’ position of some prescriptivists as derisively labelled by Jean Aitchison: that this pronunciation is a sign of how language is becoming lazier. This supposed laziness could also be instanced by Guy Deutscher in his theory of language change which ascribes economy as opposed to laziness as a motive for language change. He stated in 2005 that this is ‘the tendency to save effort’.




Is a swearword! It is of Anglo Saxon origin in the form ‘shitten’ as exhibited in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. It is – as well as ‘shite’, an alternative prevalent in Ireland, Scotland and Northern England – primarily used as a synonym for literal faeces, and is usually now used as an adjective for something that isn’t very good. However, ‘shit’ has undergone some semantic change in recent years that ‘shite’ hasn’t. Although ‘shit’ is still taboo language, amelioration has lead to it being interchangeable with ‘stuff’ or ‘thing’. For example, in ‘Move that shit out of the way’, it is used to add extra harshness to the command. In ‘That’s some gooooood shit’ (usually in reference to drugs or alcohol), it makes the substance in question seem that bit more illicit and shady. Furthermore, ‘shit’ can be taken to mean ‘best’ when used in conjunction with the definite article. Saying ‘He’s the shit!’ is very complementary, because instead of saying ‘He’s a cool guy’, using ‘shit’ here makes the person in question seem that bit funnier or more skilled. ‘Shit’ is used in these contexts not because there was lack of a suitable pre-existing word, but because it’s nice to vary our language sometimes and it has a particular nuance that gives it an edge over alternatives like ‘things’ or ‘cool guy’ or ‘drugs’. These meanings tend to be used by the younger generation, whereas ‘shit’ as a substitute for ‘rubbish’ is common in speech of older and younger people alike. There are many synonyms for ‘shit’. As both nouns and adjectives, ‘bullshit’ (and subsequently the back formation ‘bull’), and also ‘crap’, are interchangeable with ‘shit’. ‘Crap’, while still rude, is less offensive and ‘Bullshit’ is a bit of an Americanism. ‘Shit’ is a popular swearword because it is applicable in many situations. It is harsh enough to imply considerable frustration when it is used as an expletive and has garnered a reputation as offensive language so that when applied in other situations it is still edgy and cool.




The word ‘sick’ comes from Old English and originally had medical connotations. The verb ‘to be sick’ means to empty the contents of the stomach through the mouth and the noun version relates to the people that are suffering from the illness. There is also an adjective ‘sick’ which relates to someone or something that is ill or affected by impairment. The adjective version has, in recent times, been adapted to also mean evil. However, within the youngest generation, it has changed in meaning once again, and amelioration has taken place, as it is now used to express how something is amazing. Interestingly, this word has also narrowed in its use because it is used very little in reference to a person being ill in certain areas and used greatly for something being good in other areas. This could potentially be due to a varying social background of the people using the word, as this word is used in this way by lesser educated people who do not use standard grammar and vocabulary.




The word ‘snack’ started out as a verb in the 1300s, possibly from Middle Dutch. As a verb, it meant “to bite or snap at.’’ Within a century, it was being used as a noun as well. The word even spread back from a noun to a verb, creating the verb to snack. So our common modern usage of to snack is a verb that came from a noun that came from a different noun, which came from a verb that is almost completely out of the English language. This cycle has also occurred with many other words, especially technology associated words. For example, ‘Facebook’ ‘Twitter’ and ‘Tumbler’ are also nouns that can also be used as verbs. This is most likely because of our internet obsessed culture, in which technology plays such a large part in our lives.




This common noun is an example of how language develops because of social change. The word originally referred to a type of food but through the introduction of the internet and emails it is now used to mean junk mail. (This is also an example of semantic shift over time). Ray Harlow explains that languages that do develop to become widespread and popular do so because of social change. Changes in technology, law, politics and science mean new words are needed to meet the needs of the changing society.


tag questions         


Early studies assigned tag questions a single function of simply expressing speaker insecurity and the desire to get approval from others, however later more careful analyses revealed a range of meanings and functions. Jenny Cheshire claims that conventional analyses forces us to look for simply ‘one form, one meaning’ and this can cause us to overlook the typical features of spoken language, where meanings are usually pragmatically determined.




John H. Esling gives several reasons as to why a person’s accent may change. One of his reasons for accent change is wanting to adapt to your surroundings and blend in. He says, “If we were to leave our native place for an extended period, our perception that the new accents around were strange would only be temporary.” He says we would gradually change our accent “to accommodate our speech patterns to the new norm.” On the other hand, not all people want to change their accents and so keep their original accent to stand out from the crowd – this may be for overt or covert prestige reasons.  This supports what Martin Montgomery says in “An introduction to Language and Society” (1986) and he describes people who keep a more covert prestige accent as “working-class loyalty to non-prestige form”. He says that although people who do this recognise RP as having more overt prestige, they keep the “distinctive patterns of their own locality” in order to preserve their identity – such as “talkin” instead of “talking” as per Peter Trudgill’s study in Norwich.




Jenny Cheshire claims that the one form, one meaning’ structure of Standard English grammarians has led to semantic and pragmatic functions of the word ‘that’ being seriously misunderstood. It has previously been assumed that the fundamental meaning of the word is a distal spatial one, in opposition to ‘this’. However this meaning is only correct when it is in implicit or explicit opposition with ‘this’. There are other frequent meanings, such as the ‘empathetic’ ‘that’ in examples like ‘how’s that throat?’ it also has meanings as a relative pronoun and as an intensifier. Therefore Cheshire is showing how it is possible to identity a more basic function of ‘that’ which has been obscured in previous analyses. In her article “Spoken Standard English” Jenny Cheshire addresses an issue she notes in regards to the definition of ‘standard English’. She states that the concept of spoken Standard English is problematic, but also that the grammatical structure of spoken English is not well understood. Cheshire observes the fact that our conventional descriptions of ‘standard English’ actually fit written English much better than they fit speech we produce, particularly because the situations we mostly speak in are informal ones.




There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me / As if I were their well-acquainted friend. Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, Act IV, Scene 3 (1594) & “for they say every body is in love once in their lives, and I shall have been let off easily.” Austen, Emma, (1815) – The use of “their” in the singular though it is technically incorrect has been in existence a long time supporting James Milroy’s argument that there was no ‘Golden Age’ of language use. This contradicts the ‘Crumbling Castle’ analogy that language is in decline as it provides evidence that language has been used “incorrectly” for a long time though it could be argued that it demonstrates the ‘Infectious Disease’ analogy as people through the generations have copied the mistakes people before them have made.




In spontaneous speech, Jenny Cheshire observes that there is often incorrect agreement when ‘there’ is used, and she believes we should look for an explanation for this. If you take an approach orientated at spoken language then you would note that the structure regularly occurs, and could therefore look at how it relates to factors which are important to speakers. Cheshire states that a big factor is the presentation of information, because spontaneous language is produced in chunks of information rather than in perfect sentence structures. In speech there is a preference for clauses to have light subjects and for new information to be presented at the end of a clause. Therefore the irregular ‘there’ construction fits into this pattern, with the focused presentation of new information. The grammars of Standard English cannot account for this.




Originally meaning a fine cord of fibrous material such as cotton or flax. However its meaning has now broadened to mean the topic of conversation on an internet website or forum – a number of messages posted about the same topic in the same section of the website. This is a common phenomenon in our society; as new technology comes along, new words are invented or existing words undergo a semantic shift to suit the new word. This has led to a whole spate of new words to do with technology or inventions, such as “surf” meaning to change between channels or browse internet websites, and even some words undergo conversion such as the noun ‘bookmark’ which becomes the verb ‘to bookmark’ (meaning to save the link to a website) and thus takes on an entirely different meaning to do with technology. This also provides examples for the Theory of Lexical Gaps, as new words are invented when needed to keep up with technology. This is an example of how the internet can cause words to change rapidly – language change is extremely fast when it involves the internet.




From Old English thyrlian, meaning pierce. The current sense of thrill must have started as a metaphor with some shock value; I’m thrilled to bits literally meaning I’m pierced to bits, being a graphic equivalent of today’s you’re killing me or smashing. This semantic shift shows that changing the meaning of the word can expand our expressive range and provide more words to choose from as there were previously fewer alternative words to express being excited by something. Guy Deutscher’s theory on language change is very much concerned with metaphors which are a major driver for change in that they enable the speakers of the language to be more expressive, just as the language itself is becoming stale and ineffective from overuse. Metaphors are often thought to be an ornamental figure of poetic arts, creating evocative images, like “I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly because your tread on my dreams.”  Yet they can be found, dead or alive, in even the plainest words of everyday language. They are an essential tool of thought, allowing us to think of abstract concepts in simpler terms, and are the only way we have of dealing with abstraction. Abstract ideas using metaphors originate from a concrete object or concept that we are familiar with. The only way we have of expanding our expressive range to encompass abstract concepts is to draw on concrete terms.


to boldly go         


Splitting infinitives, such as “to be” or “to go” by putting any word between the “to” of the infinitive and the verb of the infinitive, has been a bug bear of many prescriptivists becasue it is “simply wrong”. However: “Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows; Thy pity may deserve to pitied be” Shakespeare, Sonnet 142. And some writers get it comiccaly wrong: “Writers should learn to not split infinitives”. Henry Alford, in his ‘Plea for the Queen’s English’ in 1864, addressed this issue bringing it first to the attention of the public. Examples of split infinitives can be found in many examples of work, the earliest in the 13th Century and it wasn’t until the 1800s then again in the 1960/70s that people began to dispute it. This suggests that there was never a ‘Golden Age’, supporting Milroy’s argument. The construction appeared because people frequently place adverbs before finite verbs and therefore if the adverb should immediately precede the finite verb, we feel that it should immediately precede also the infinitive. This supports the ‘Damp Spoon’ syndrome idea that people are getting lazy about language use though as there is no solid grammatical evidence behind why we shouldn’t split infinitives (no one blamed Latin when the issue first cropped up in the 18th and 19th century) can it really be called wrong?


to edit         


This dynamic verb is an example of how words are formed through the process of ‘back formation’ – another example of how the English language has developed from within according Ray Harlow. The concrete ‘editor’ came previously before and therefore this shows how the English vocabulary is increasing over time to meet language demands.




The adverb together has not shown semantic change but instead is an example of pronunciation change. There is considered to be a right and a wrong way to pronounce this word with the two ways seen as a marker for class differences. ‘tu:gεθə’ is seen as the standard pronunciation and has overt prestige. ‘tu:gεvə’ is therefore seen as the marker for lower class and some would say it is a lazier pronunciation and quite common. Pronunciation change that gives the same impression as ‘together’ can be seen in words such as ‘twenty’ and ‘Saturday’ where the pronunciation of the letter combinations ‘ty’ and ‘tu’ can be pronounced in different ways.




Pronouncing ‘Tuesday’ with [yu] is seen as more prestigious than [oo] as in ‘Toosday’. In Willima Labov’s research 29 female’s results showed them over reporting the more prestigious form, yet no men over reported. New York participants over reported themselves as using the standard form more than they under reported and only 7 people in total under reported. Peter Trudgill’s research showed that working class men report more non-standard speech in their talking, non-standard speech is seen to have masculine, ‘hard’ connotations as do other aspects of the working class culture. Many men would prefer to be seen in this way. It is prestigious in its own way as it carries its own desirable masculine attributes.




Originally used to describe materials such as rubber, but can now be used instead of ‘difficult’ or to describe a person and to describe the abstract concept of ideas. e.g. tough legislation. Tough could be described as a clichéd metaphor, as the original meaning is still in use and its new use has been used often enough for it to lose its original impact. This exemplifies Guy Deutscher’s belief that metaphors expand our expressive range, as now there are more words for the word “difficult”. Deutscher argues that metaphors are a necessary tool used to express difficult concepts. They appear frequently in everyday language: to explain concepts such as spatial relations or possession metaphors are necessary, causing a blur between metaphorical and literal meaning, leading to what he calls as a “reef of dead metaphors” which make up our language.




New Yorkers were read a list of 12 words one being ‘tune’. They were pronounced in a standard and non-standard way ‘tyoon’ and ‘toon’ the participants then had to decide which one they used. Overwhelming results reported that people think they speak more prestigiously than they actually do. It also showed that more men were more accurate in identifying how they speak than women. 94 men were accurate yet only 64 women were. Peter Trudgill’s research showed that working class men report more non-standard speech in their talking, non-standard speech is seen to have masculine, ‘hard’ connotations as do other aspects of the working class culture. Many men would prefer to be seen in this way. It is prestigious in its own way as it carries its own desirable masculine attributes.




“Ufan” is the old word for “above” is a clear example of Guy Deutscher’s creation through destruction cycle. Ufan” meant “on up” which was then blended to “be-ufan” meaning “by on up”. This was then clipped to form “bufan”. This was then given the preposition “an” to form “an-bufan” literally meaning “on by on up”. The cycle continued until “above.” Not only does this movemnt in language over a long period show how words are constantly changing to become either more economical or more effective or more analogous with other words, but that every word is subject to change, and the change we see around us today is just the same process slowed down.


up of ‘offee and ‘oo’ies –         


The’ elders of Idleford’ is a fairytale used by Guy Deutscher to describe the decaying of language. Firstly the ‘k’ was changed to ‘ch’ as the tongue only had to be raised half of the way it had been before. Then to make easier the ‘ch’ was made ‘h’ as the tongue did not have to touch the roof of the mouth at all. Finally an Idleford elder suggested removing this sound altogether. The fairytale was trying to show that “correct” pronunciation disappears due to laziness; however Deutscher believes that language changes due to the desire to be more efficient when speaking and make your point more quickly. An example of this is ‘ot instead of ‘hot’.




The acronym derives from ‘value added tax’, a 17 and a half percent consumption tax on most products, passed onto the consumer. This is an example of how phrases or long names for something are often shortened by an acronym to make them easier to use in everyday conversation.  It makes our language more economical and so is occurring in many places where acronyms or even initialisms are brought into everyday use, such as ‘BBC’ instead of ‘British Broadcasting Company’, simply because they are easier or quicker to say. This shows how language often changes to make names easier to remember or to suit the needs of the audience as it is so widely used. This brings up the question: are we just lazy? – the ‘dirty spoon’ theory. This opens an entire can of worms to do with language and laziness – (as discussed in class!) – such as between those who pronounce the ‘r’ in ‘bar’ and those who don’t – which asks if we are lazy or simply if our language is changing to fit the time.




There are cases in Aboriginal languages where there is no existing term in a language to cover new concepts, which contact with Europeans and late 20th Century technology has brought. However creating words from scratch to deal with new concepts is an unusual way of doing this in any language. Ray Harlow says that “Computers weren’t talked about in Old English; Modern English is the same as Old English, only later; it should follow that Modern English cannot be used to discuss computers. This is clearly absurd.” The three usual methods of developing terms for new concepts are: using existing words and compounding or affixation is used. (e.g. downsize), borrowing words from other languages (sputnik = fellow traveller in Russian), or extending the meanings of existing words (e.g. surfing the internet). An example of compounding in Kayadild, an Aboriginal language, would be the creation of a word for tobacco (wadubayiinda) by compounding wadu ‘smoke’ with bayii ‘to be bitten’. This logical compounding demonstrates the flexibility of any language and how it changes to suit needs of speakers.




…and other verbs ending in -ing, Peter Trudgill in his Norwich Study wanted to see whether the speaker dropped the final g and pronounced this as -in’. 100% of lower working class in reading passage style used non-standard speech and pronounced ‘walking’ without the standard suffix ‘ing’ on the end. Whereas 0% of the middle middle class used the non-standard speech in pronouncing this. The non standard ‘walkin’ was more prominent in men than in women through all of the social classes. However women reported more use of standard speech whereas men over reported their use of non-standard speech. Trudgill noted that only 9-12% of people in Britain actually use Standard English, which raises the question how many speakers think they speak SE and don’t.


walkin’ & talkin’          


In standard British the –ng sound is pronounced, whereas (in Norwich) the pronunciation of “walkin’ ” is frequently heard, as if there was just an –n on the end. This is a remnant of an older style of speech and its widespread usage in the past is shown in rhymes and misspellings. Shakespeare, for example, used “cushing” and “javeling” for “cushion” and “javelin” which were both never pronounced with –ing and indicates that Shakespeare added the –g in because he thought it ought to be there in the spelling. Also, the alternation between local –in and standard British –ing has emerged into speaker’s consciousness and Trudgill found that higher classes used the standard British version and the lower classes stuck with –n. He also found that women wanted think of themselves as speaking the standard prestige form whereas men wanted to use the –n as it gave a desirable ‘rougher’ effect to their speech.




This word has had a semantic change as it used to just mean when somebody squandered something whereas how it is commonly used to describe a very drunk person. This words meaning has been broadened meaning it could be due to newer generations taking old words and giving them new meanings in their social groups which then spreads it. It could also be due to social background, only certain people may choose to use this word, many people would just say ‘drunk’ or ‘intoxicated’.


we goes          


the use of the present tense suffix with non 3rd person singular subjects is an indicator of vernacular loyalty as Jenny Cheshire found it was spoken less in a formal situation eg school, and people who are more strongly adhering to vernacular culture use it more than people who are less adhering. Jenny Cheshire found that the frequency with which adolescent speakers use many non-standard morphological and syntactic features of the variety of English spoken in the town of Reading in Berkshire is correlated with the extent to which they adhere to the norms of the vernacular culture.




The definition of this word is ‘a cardinal point of the compass, 90° to the left when facing north, corresponding to the point where the sun is seen to set.’ It would be used in a context where direction is needed or explained. It is now a slang adjective used by youths, and seemed to have come about from people who tend to smoke cannabis. The meaning now is to describe something abnormal, weird or a bizarre situation e.g. “that dog looks west.” This change is a conversion as the semantics are completely different and has been quickly passed on to the teenage generation.


wh-descriptive clause         


Jenny Cheshire considers clauses which start with words like ‘when’ or ‘where’ or sometimes even ‘there’, and the function of them is as a bid for a topic to be discussed, and are frequently used by teenagers when recounting an event. They are used almost instead of saying ‘do you remember’. Cheshire believes the speaker is attempting to propose a topic and at the same time invite others to take it up, which is a feature of what she refers to as “Standard Spoken English” as opposed to the SE of grammarians which is based on the written variety only, thus not allowing for the fact that written and spoken grammars must necessarily differ. What has previously been discounted as non-standard regional or social variations, are very often accounted for by the difference between standard spoken and written varieties.


Wha (t) stupidity? & It’s ho(t)         


In Language people often make a minor deviation from the norm which leads to language changing over time, as others imitate, maybe intentionally or not it leads to words being altered. People alter “t” to a glottal stop when it occurs before another word at the end of a sentence. It is a habit usually noticed and often censured. Parents are frequently heard upbringing children with comments such as “Don’(t) say ‘what’ in tha(t) sloppy way” not realizing their own speech shows a fluctuating t also. T-dropping, then, is a change against standard norm which emerges into public view when it occurs in certain environments.




Who am I speaking to? / To whom am I speaking? – is an example of a  well known ‘error’ in that a preposition (in this sentence, “to”) should never end a sentence. The nominative form of the relative pronoun “who” is also used rather than the oblique for “whom” which according to the standardisation of English should be used after a preposition. Lesley Milroy argues that the perception that this is an error came from the codification of the English language relatively recently in the history of language, whereby the need to have one form as ‘standard’ meant that other frequently used forms were cast as incorrect forming a prescription for grammar. This makes prescriptive arguments difficult as they can create problems such as the former of these two examples is normal in most contexts, whereas the latter will generally be interpreted as marking a social distance.




Wicked was initially used in a negative way, firstly associated with witchcraft and meant someone was evil before just becoming a negative word meaning if someone did something malicious or horrible though less serious than its original meaning of evil. However recently it has broadened and ameliorated to meaning if something is good or really cool and now has positive connotations. This is most likely a social change as it is used as a slang word mostly by the younger generation and is part of a collection of words that have undergone a semantic shift and amelioration such as ‘bad’ and ‘ill’, words that originally had negative connotations which are now used in a positive manner. This could be because it has become fashionable to do so and therefore it was expanded to other words which were negative as well.




When borrowing words from different languages, often the pronunciation of the word can be changed to the point where the original source is not recognizable: the English word ‘hospital’ ends up as wijipitirli in Walpiri. Ray Harlow argues that the need to borrow words does not show flaws in languages, as borrowing words from other languages is a feature of all languages and shows the adaptability of Aborigine languages. This explains the point that Ray Harlow makes about the myth that some languages aren’t as good as others and he asks “good enough for what?” He states that languages have evolved over time to suit the needs of the speakers. For example the ability of languages like English or German to explain Nuclear physics, is often given as evidence of these languages superiority. However the ability to speak about nuclear physics was never an intrinsic part of the languages, but instead they have adapted to suit the need to talk about nuclear physics. Extending the meaning of existing words has also been a common solution in many aboriginal languages, which some people think are not as good as western or mainstream languages. For example in Kunwinjku, kun-denge means ‘foot’ as well as ‘wheel’.




How did “will” which meant want to/desire come to be sued as a future auxiliary and have no semantic content itself in some clauses? The marriage promise “I will” used to have the literal meaning “I want to” love, honour, cherish etc. Yet if you say you want to then you normally will do, and so “will” ended up as a future auxiliary. Where there was a need for a word function in a language – in this case for a small and neat future auxiliary, which could efficiently denote future time without adding anything else to the sentence, the language came up with a solution. Languages are essentially changing, living things.




This noun is very recent in terms of language formation. The word was first used in the 1970s and it is a blend of the word ‘work’ and the suffix ‘holic’. ‘Holic’ denotes addiction to the subject in question which means in this case somebody who is a workaholic is somebody that is addicted to working excessively. Other examples of this modern blending of a noun and a suffix include chocoholic and shopaholic and if you were to use these words in a sentence, it would seem as though you were mocking as in most scenarios they are used as hyperbole.  The reason for this blend is because the only other definition would be ‘somebody addicted to working’ which is a lot longer and therefore for the pure ease of speech, blending has taken place.


would could         


Double modal constructions – ‘a good machine would could do it’ instead of ‘a machine would be able to do it’. These are mainly regional variations. There are some parts of speech that occur as part of spontaneous speech that would not be considered ‘standard English’ if written, as the grammatical rules do not apply. Jenny Cheshire argues that there are many examples of spoken English that would not be considered as standard written English, but that she believes are valid uses of the English language. Perhaps spoken Standard English should be broadened to include these. Where written Standard English only has one form, spoken English varies from region to region and generation to generation; Jenny Cheshire believes that this should be taken into consideration when looking at Spoken Standard English.


you know         


Fillers such as “you know” were once dismissed as simply fumbles, but after rigorous analyses of their use in interaction, it has been revealed that they have important and varied function. Jenny Cheshire is showing that ‘standard spoken English’ does not take fully into account all the functions of certain words or phrases, and can dismiss them simply as non-standard English. Jenny Cheshire claims that our ‘frameworks of analysis conform to the views of language that we have acquired during our education rather than to the variety of language that we produce during face-to-face interaction.


you was         


Jenny Cheshire discovered that when speaking about minor criminal activity, those who agreed with it, those who were not against the crimes, tended to use grammatically incorrect structures: ‘you was with me, wasn’t you?’ and ‘I never went to school today’. This might suggest that lower class citizens (more likely to commit minor offences – statistically) speak less like standard written English than those who are more educated and higher class. Might suggest that it is a conscious choice to not speak Standard English in order to make oneself stand out more, be seen as more of the locality or class of people.




Scouse is the name given to the accent and dialect found in Merseyside, England and most commonly linked with the city in that area, Liverpool. It is a very distinctive accent with many differences in pronunciation compared to nearby regions and cities like Manchester. Examples of this accent include the tendency to say the second person plural ‘you’ as ‘youz’, to vary the rising and falling of intonation a lot more than other Northern accents, and to realise the phoneme /k/ in all positions of a word except the beginning as /x/ or sometimes /kx/. The ‘Scouse’ or Liverpudlian accent is a very recognisable accent but not one that is often admired. Scouse is frequently ridiculed and it is satirised on TV programmes. Due to the fact that Liverpool is largely working to middle class, anyone who shows such features mentioned above in the way that they speak is subject to immediate judgement which is usually negative. Upper class RP speakers are especially wary of this accent.


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